Recommended Accessibility Guidelines for Public Transport Operators in Ireland
There are a number of reasons why operators should improve the accessibility of their services. Firstly, improving accessibility is good for business.
The profile of passengers (and potential passengers) of public transport is changing. Not only is the number of people with disabilities growing but the proportion of older people in the population is also increasing. These demographic changes will require improvement in the accessibility of public transport services.
Improving accessibility will attract passengers who would not previously have considered using public transport. Existing passengers, who may or may not have disabilities, will be encouraged to make more trips by public transport because it is easier or more convenient to use, more pleasant, and satisfies their needs to a fuller extent.
The introduction of low floor, accessible vehicles may also lead to reduction in dwell times at stops and stations as passengers can get on and off low floor vehicles more easily and quicker, thereby enabling vehicles to complete journeys quicker and thus possibly reducing the number of vehicles required to provide the same level of service.
Secondly, the legislative and regulatory framework has become more demanding for all parties (the State and operators) in relation to providing fully accessible public transport services (see Section 3.2). The Government, in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 (NDP), makes a commitment that "new and upgraded bus and rail stations, light rail vehicles, new suburban railcars and new urban buses will be fully accessible".
In the Outline Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, the Department of Transport has stated that obligations arising from its objectives with regard to accessibility "will apply to all providers of public transport services, both public and private" (see Appendix 1, Reference 2). Public transport providers, like any other service providers, have statutory obligations under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability (for more information see also section 3.2 of this document).
Finally, all citizens should be given equal consideration in the design and provision of public transport. The principle of equal treatment is particularly relevant to the public transport sector as it has the ability to enable people to gain access to all that society has to offer.
How can the change be managed? Improving access for passengers with disabilities is similar to implementing any type of change – there are challenges that need to be managed.
This can be achieved by:
- having a clear and shared vision across the company, backed by an understanding of the business case;
- having visible and effective leadership from senior management;
- developing relationships with passengers with disabilities and their organisations through effective consultation;
- acquiring functional and technical skills through training;
- communicating changes in a timely and accessible fashion to all the operator’s staff, to passengers and to potential passengers; and
- setting out detailed plans for improving accessibility and monitoring progress.