Transport for All has urged the Government to protect the statutory duty to consult with disabled people on transport issues.
The Department for Transport is consulting on the future of the Disabled Person’s Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC). DPTAC is a 12 person committee which advises Ministers on issues such as enforcing Blue Badge Parking; and the accessibility of buses, taxis and trains.
The Government is considering abolishing DPTAC, and replacing it with an alternative mechanism to elicit the views of disabled people. Options include a ‘stakeholder forum’ of around 20 people representing different disability groups; a panel of experts supported by a secretariat, retaining DPTAC, or using existing expertise within the Department for Transport. You can read Transport for All’s full response to the consultation here – if you are a member and would like your views to be included in our response, please contact us by 12th September.
Below is a summary of the proposed changes and our response. You can view and respond to DfT’s full consultation, and view and respond to other consultations on accessible transport, on the Consultations section of our webpage here.
Nothing About Us Without Us
‘Nothing about us without us’ is a central slogan in the disability rights movement and a true one: the participation of disabled people, not simply well-meaning non-disabled people, is required to make good decisions. TfA is concerned that the options being considered do not adequately provide for the involvement of disabled people at early stages of decision making process.
The proposed options suggest that ‘members could be drawn, on an ad hoc basis, when specific advice is needed’ or ‘convened when advice was required’. But it is vital, if the Government is genuine in seeking to improve transport for disabled people, that the advice of disabled people is sought not only ‘when required’ but regularly. The group’s remit should be not only to advise whenever a decision is being considered that has implications for disabled transport users; but also to advise on an ongoing basis on what the Government and industry should do to improve the accessibility of public transport.
Without a statutory duty to always consult with disabled people, not just when it’s convenient, we risk losing falling behind with working towards a transport system that disabled and older people can use with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.
A group led by disabled people
TfA have also recommended that more than 80% of the group are themselves disabled people. DPTAC was genuinely a pan-impairment group. Whatever option is chosen, TfA would like to see that experts who are invited are ‘experts by experience’ and disabled; and disability groups who are invited are asked that they endeavour to send a representative who is disabled.
TfA is strongly opposed to transport operators being included in a group which is meant to advise on the interests and views of disabled people. Advice from transport operators can, and will, be represented through other channels. But sometimes, especially when there is a cost to transport operators to implementing an improvement to accessibility, the interests of transport operators will not be aligned with the interests of disabled transport users.
Transport for All have suggested that retaining DPTAC but reforming it to ensure that it is more representative of the wider disabled community; or having a stakeholder group or a panel of experts or a combination of both that meets at least four times a year (meeting 2-3 times a year, one of the proposed options, is not enough).
Whatever option is chosen, the group with responsibility for advising Ministers need to be in contact with the wider disabled community to let them know they can provide views on a particular issue. At present, there seem to be few lines of communication between DPTAC and other disability groups and disabled people, making DPTAC unaccountable and untransparent. Even something as simple as a regularly updated webpage showing what the option is considering and how disabled people can submit their views; as well as what advice is eventually provided, would be very useful.
It’s also important that whatever option is chosen, it is as representative as possible of disabled people in the UK – including but not restricted to wheelchair users, assistance dog users, people with a learning disability, deaf and blind people, people with a speech impairment, and ambulant disabled people.
But being representative isn’t only about including people with a variety of impairments. TfA have made clear that the chosen option must ensure that the people chosen to represent disabled transport users’ views to Ministers must have experience of using all modes of transport, both in rural and urban places. It isn’t good enough to have a selection of people who largely use trains, cars and taxis; but rarely use buses and door-to-door transport modes like Dial A Ride.
We urge people to contact their MP and respond to DfT and urge them to protect the statutory duty to consult with disabled people.