The House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability published a report at the end of March into the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people. On Wednesday 27th April, a series of talks and open mic discussions took place to present the main findings of the report and share ideas on what needs to happen next.
TfA members brought evidence to the Committee earlier this year highlighting that passengers still faced unnecessary difficulties and discrimination when accessing transport. Delayed taxi regulation, lack of turn-up-and-go assistance at railway stations, exclusion of scooter users from using the rail network, the need for audio-visual information on buses, and the continuing debate over whether wheelchair users have priority over the wheelchair space on buses were all brought before the Lords. TfA welcomes the recommendations made by the Lords which relate to transport:
- Network Rail, Transport for London, train operators and bus companies should put more of their resources towards making their stations and vehicles more easily accessible to those in wheelchairs.
- The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency must enforce strictly the Regulations governing access to vehicles.
- More resources should be devoted to providing annunciators on trains and buses which do not have them. No new vehicles should be put into service which do not have audio and visual annunciators. The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations 2000 should be amended accordingly.
- Training of all rail, bus and coach staff to a level agreed in consultation and set out in law is in our view essential. If no adequate level of training can be agreed, Ministers have power under section 22(2) of the Equality Act 2010 to make Regulations prescribing the level of training which is reasonable. They should be prepared to use these reserve powers if necessary, and to enforce the Regulations they make.
- The reasons offered by the Government for failing to bring section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 into force 20 years after its enactment are entirely unconvincing. Ministers should be considering the burden on disabled people trying to take taxis, not the burden on taxi owners or drivers. Section 165 and the remaining provisions of Part 12 of the Act should be brought into force forthwith.
- The Department for Transport should update its 2011 Local Transport Note to offer guidance to local authorities on how shared spaces schemes can best cater for the needs of disabled people. Local authorities should review existing schemes in the light of that guidance, make changes where necessary and practicable, and base any new schemes on that guidance.
‘The Lords Report on Disability and the Equality Act: Turning Recommendations into Reality’ conference
At ‘The Lords Report on Disability and the Equality Act: Turning Recommendations into Reality’ event, a wide range of topics were discussed, some in great detail, including how the disability rights movement of the 1990’s saw the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; the role of legal precedent and the challenges of going through the courts; and the importance of disabled people being empowered to push for change.
The transport panel consisted of Keith Richards, Chair of Disabled People’s Transport Advisory Committee; Faryal Velmi, Director of Transport for All; and Doug Paulley, Campaigner and claimant in Paulley v First Group PLC.
Faryal Velmi said: “In the transport context, the DDA and now the Equality Act have not brought about the equality and accessibility improvements that were expected around transport as access and in particular the pace of change has been infuriating. For us at Transport for All, it really highlights the important point that the changes that have been won… haven’t been because of the gestures of commissioners or transport commissioners; they have been won by the tireless and the vociferous activity of disabled people and our allies.”
Speaking about the recommendation that training of rail bus and coach staff should be a legal requirement, Faryal Velmi emphasised that: “It is really, crucially important that training is Disability Equality Training not just awareness training, and also that the training is based on the social model of disability, and that it’s developed and delivered by disabled trainers. The other thing important point to note is after initial training that there is refresher training that tops up the knowledge that has been built but importantly brings into discussion the everyday examples that transport staff have when they are giving assistance to disabled people. We believe that this is the gold standard of Disability Equality Training and that all transport companies need to invest and aspire to this.”
On the subject of mobility scooter access to transport, Faryal Velmi expressed concern that “We have to future proof our transport network to ensure scooter users are allowed to ride on all the UK buses, tubes, trains and trams; unfortunately we are some way away from that.”
Doug Paulley gave the Conference an update on the First Bus case, saying that “it is due to come into Supreme Court on the 15th June” and that “there may be a judgment before Christmas.” Speaking on the importance of the case, which has been dubbed ‘Busgate’ by some commentators, Paulley said “It is about a wheelchair space on a bus and whether disabled people should have priority for it and be able to use it. We all know that years ago disabled people chained themselves to buses [to campaign for wheelchair spaces on buses]… it isn’t my case; it’s case for all disabled bus users.”
In addition to the recommendations of the Lords, a variety of issues were brought to the floor by the panellists, TfA members, and campaigners from other organisations. Community transport services were recognised to be essential to many, though restrictions on time of booking, time of travel, and cost in some areas were all noted as barriers to easy travel. Concerns over the proposals by Sir Peter Hendy to the Transport Secretary to defer 50% of vital Access for All projects to 2019-24 were raised, as London’s rail network and those who rely upon it would benefit from improved accessibility sooner rather than later.
Want to know more? Check out what the delegates thought as it happened #EqConf16