Public transport access for people with disabilities

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With acknowledgements to Michael Merrett

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Independently accessible transport options are key to achieving equality for people with disabilities. Public transport vehicles which have to be accessed by drivers setting down ramps are only partially accessible as they do not allow people in wheelchairs to access vehicles independently. As such socialists support:

  • Independently accessible public transport for people with disabilities in all parts of Australia.
  • The phasing in of free public transport. Immediately make public transport free to all people with disabilities who have concession cards and other concession card holders.
  • Some people with disabilities need to be accompanied on public transport by an attendant, in which case the attendant should also be able to travel for free.
  • More frequent and extensive services to meet the transport needs of all non-car owners
  • The restoration of station assistants to all stations at all times. Bring back train guards and tram conductors.
  • Regularly retrain all customer service staff in the rights, needs and entitlements of all people with disabilities.
  • Re-open all station toilet facilities and build new facilities on platforms and at tram/bus interchanges.
  • Provide seating, shelter and environmentally sustainable lighting at all bus and tram stops for the comfort of all passengers and the health of passengers with limited mobility. Tram and bus stops need access to emergency communication buttons and timetable information of the type provided for train travellers. All tram and bus shelters should be regularly cleaned and maintained.
  • The retention and extension of railways as the most efficient and accessible form of public transport
  • End all safety hazards of our rail system — wheels of wheelchairs getting caught in poorly maintained track work, blind people falling from unsafe platforms, trains overshooting platforms causing people to fall off trains when they step out of the door, people falling in huge gaps between carriages that they mistake for open doorways, huge gaps between platforms and train doors, such as at Epping Station in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne, that are an accident waiting to happen. Stop the State government’s wilful neglect of the safety of people with disabilities, children and the frail elderly who are the most at risk of accidents on our trains. Fix the rails and platforms, redesign the vehicles and bring back the staff that can help prevent these horrific accidents. Only placing public transport back into public hands, with the input of staff, people with disabilities and passenger groups, will solve these problems.
  • All new public transport vehicles to be fully and independently accessible to all types of motorised scooters and wheelchairs.
  • Investigate the feasibility of retrofitting existing vehicles and tram and bus stops for accessibility.
  • Provide an independently accessible tram stop in Bridge Road Richmond, outside the Epworth Hospita,l as a top priority.
  • Introduce automated electronic written and audible stop announcements on board all trams and investigate the feasibility of also doing this on buses. The present system of requiring drivers to make announcements has had inconsistent results.
  • Test out all vehicle destination signs and other written information by running them past committees of vision-impaired and elderly passengers — people with limited vision cannot easily read tram and bus destinations and information, particularly the flashing and changing destination signs on tram and bus. We lost our manually operated and highly readable black and white tram and bus destination rolls, and copped dot matrix electronic signage, to serve a modernisation fad and facilitate one-person operation of trams and busy bus routes. Restore user friendly tram and bus destination signs.
  • Restore the heritage style black and white railway station signs to all railway stations in Melbourne. The old signs were ripped out without community consultation and replaced with less readable signage, in pale blue with small lower case white letters, to serve corporate egos in the wake of privatisation. The old signs were more easily read by elderly and vision-impaired passengers.
  • Stop the misleading spin on accessible public transport and tell the truth about whether people with disabilities can easily access these vehicles without assistance, whether they really feel comfortable accessing these services, whether there is enough room for wheelchairs and guide dogs or enough assistance in using the services. Speak the truth and address the issues by fully involving people with disabilities, passengers who use bicycles, prams and shopping jeeps and public transport workers in addressing barriers to genuine accessibility. Fully fund their proposed improvements.
  • Bring maxi taxi service levels and response times into line with other taxi services and heavily subsidise their fare levels at a rate of 75%, up from the current 50%, for people with health problems who are heavily reliant upon these services. Maxi taxis and “special buses” should not cynically be used by governments as cost cutting measures — they should not replace integrated independently accessible transport where people with disabilities can travel freely and interact with their non-disabled peers.
  • Pay a living wage to maxi taxi drivers and increase their training. This will attract people to the industry and assist these drivers in providing a quality service to people with disabilities.
  • Develop faster, more energy efficient, and more robust electric wheelchairs and scooters so that people with disabilities can make short trips without needing public transport or cars, and with less need to recharge or service their chairs.