The story of Ray Bellisario in the Guardian is yet another reminder of the huge issues disabled and older Londoners face just trying to live our lives and get from A to B.
We have been liaising with Ray about his transport issues over the last year. His story, whilst shocking, will be no surprise to London’s disabled and older communities. Through our accessible transport helpline, we hear about many stories of nightmare journeys across all transport modes. It takes a while to build up confidence to travel on public transport if you are on wheels or use a mobility aid, just one bad experience can really set you back.
We will be featuring an interview with Ray about his experiences and legal case on our website shortly.
In the meantime, Transport for All has been raising many of the issues highlighted by this case at two key events that happened recently.
‘Thinking outside the bus’ – A workshop on making London’s bus service fully accessible.
This event was an initiative of Transport for London, bringing together for the first time the managing directors’ of London private bus companies with representatives of some of the big disability organisations, pensioner & senior citizen groups and disabled peoples organisations.
Transport for All gave a presentation alongside Age UK London about the experiences of disabled and older bus passengers. We were keen to impress the point that that while there has been a decade of progress in terms of investment in technological advancements like ramps, ibus and low floor buses, there are persistent problems that still made bus travel difficult.
These included the perennial battle of pushchairs in the wheelchair space; unsafe driving practises (like not driving up to the kerb) and wheelchair users not being picked up at stops.
It is very likely that more disabled people will be using buses over the next year, some for the first time, as the government’s drive to axe 20% of claimants from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as it becomes the Personal Independent Payments (PIP). DLA has been a passport to a number of transport benefits like Motability cars and Blue badge and as people potentially lose these benefits, the bus will soon become the only alternative.
The question we posed was how was the bus network in London going to cope with an increased demand from disabled people?
Our presentation offered the following solutions to the bus industry:
• More involvement of disabled and older people in bus driver training.
• Better engagement of bus companies with local groups – every bus depot to have an open day where local disabled and older people can meet bus drivers.
• Understanding of the social model of disability at all levels
• Complaints leading to real improvements and change
• Bus companies to have timetables that allow for safe driving practices and access
• Investment in staff – we all benefit from decently paid staff who are happy and motivated.
The event also saw presentation from the Vassell Centre trust who currently run the disability equality part of the bus driver training BTEC that all bus drivers have to sit.
An interesting panel session by three MDs of bus companies; Mark Threapleton of Stagecoach London, Sean O’shea of Metroline and John Traynor of Go-ahead London, chaired by the chair of Transport for London’s Independent Advisory Committee (IDAG) Alice Maynard-Campbell.
The issue of bus design was a particular discussion point. The need for buses designed to accommodate a wheelchair user and a pushchair was a point put to the panel. The response was an interesting one; there are very few UK bus manufacturers and bus design is the ‘last in the queue’ in terms of innovation, with trucks and other larger vehicles taking market precedent. This has apparently resulted in the evolution of bus design to happen at a slower rate. The New Bus for London design with its small wheelchair space was raised as a missed opportunity.
All in all the event was ground-breaking in terms of bringing together of different stakeholders – and Transport for All very much hopes that it will lead to further engagement and dialogue between bus operators and disabled and older bus users. We’ll keep you posted!
Department for Transport Disability Summit
Transport for All was recently invited to attend a roundtable discussion on accessible transport hosted by the Dept of Transport (DfT). The Transport Minister Norman Baker and the Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening both addressed the meeting and gave their support for the need for improvements to the transport network.
Other attendees included Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK who gave a presentation on the RADAR publication ‘Doing Transport difficulty; RNIB, Leonard Cheshire, Mencap as well as other the larger charities. The discussion was around a DfT Action plan which states as an aim:
“The Department’s Disability Action Plan will help identify our priorities for increasing disabled people’s access to services and jobs etc. in a time of financial constraint, regulatory reform, a move to localism and changing demographics.
The Department is committed to investing for the next generation, improving disabled people’s everyday experience of transport; putting users at the heart of what we do, and investing and modernising as part of the wider growth strategy.
The objective is to have a fair transport network where everyone enjoys the same seamless journey whether disabled or not”.
The discussion was organised around three themes:
Theme 1: Improving the End to End Journey
Theme 2: Providing better information for the disabled traveller
Theme 3: Changing Attitudes & Behaviour towards disabled passengers
Transport for All Director Faryal Velmi spoke about the urgent need for the government to realise that its agenda of getting more disabled people to work must mean that there is investment in improving transport access.
Otherwise there would continue to be a disconnect resulting in disabled people not being able to get and keep work because they simply cannot get to their workplace.
More disabled people forced onto the public transport system due to benefit cuts was also raised.
TfA also spoke about how cuts to transport staff that had compromised accessibility at Tube and Rail stations in particular – and this was an issue if the DfT was interested in improving the ‘end to end journey’.
Finally we were keen to raise the important issue of the procurement process – that awarding, monitoring and renewing of transport franchises ensure accessibility standards figure highly.
TfA will continue dialogue with the DfT and the Secretary of State to ensure that the transport experiences and aspirations of our members and supporters are taken into account as they develop their action plan.