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Barriers to public transport

Human Rights Commission Media Release

Wednesday 26 October

Barriers to public transport deny many New Zealanders access to jobs and education opportunities

Many disabled people without accessible public transport are trapped in a lifetime sentence of poverty, marginalisation and dependency says Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan. They face enormous difficulties just getting to work, seeing the doctor, buying groceries and even meeting friends - all things that non-disabled people take for granted.

This is a key finding of The Accessible Journey: Report of the Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport, which was released by the Human Rights Commission today.

The report recommends comprehensive mandatory accessibility standards for buses, trains, footpaths, bus stops, shelters, stations and other transport infrastructure. It also recommends legislation to require central, regional and local government to involve disabled people in public transport planning.

The Inquiry, which began in September 2003, was prompted by the experiences of disabled people who came to the Commission, seeking enforcement of their right not to be discriminated against in the provision of public transport. The Inquiry considered the need for changes to legislation, regulations, policies and procedures and funding arrangements.

Despite the improvements that have been made to the accessibility of some elements of public land transport in the last ten years, evidence presented in this report overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that public land transport is significantly less available, less accessible, and less affordable to disabled people than it is to non-disabled people. Disabled people encounter physical barriers in getting to and from and in using public transport. They also face information barriers, behavioural barriers and cost barriers.

In short, the manner in which public transport is currently provided and regulated in New Zealand amounts to systemic discrimination against disabled people, the report says.

For a disabled person barriers can occur at any step of a journey - whether it's accessing information about a service, getting to the departure point or at the point of boarding the vehicle. This concept, called the accessible journey underpinned the Inquiry process and was endorsed by all parties to the Inquiry.

The Inquiry also found that New Zealand compared poorly with other countries in relation to progress on accessible public land transport. Research showed that Australia, the UK, the US and the European Union have introduced mandatory accessibility standards as the most effective way of ensuring a high level of consistency of land transport services.

"There is a large and growing pool of people who will benefit from accessible public transport. Statistics New Zealand figures show that one in five New Zealanders have a disability that in some way affects their day-to-day lives," Ms Noonan says.

"Amongst New Zealand's ageing population significant numbers of people are going to need accessible public transport," Ms Noonan says. "Most New Zealand families have at least one person for whom the accessibility of public transport is key to their ability to mix in their community and live a reasonably independent life, and to not be totally dependent on friends and family."

"Improving accessibility to public transport is not only immensely important for ensuring disabled people are able to realise their rights and take control of their lives, but changes that make public land transport accessible for disabled people improve it for the wider community. Every public transport user, with or without impairments, benefits from better accessibility features and practices designed to include disabled people," Ms Noonan says.

The report recommends:
* mandatory inclusion of disabled people in the public land transport planning process by local, regional and central government * operators to provide comprehensive disability awareness training and disability competency for transport personnel * central government to lead the development, implementation and monitoring of national accessibility design standards * a timetabled approach to implementation of standards * Immediate implementation of interim improvements.

An important feature of the Inquiry process was the degree of participation by all major stakeholders, including disabled people and their advocates, transport providers, regulators and funders. This approach allowed for a transparent examination of the extent of accessibility and for the development of solutions-focussed recommendations.

Inquiry into Accessible Public Land Transport Major Findings and Recommendations

Findings

The Inquiry found that disabled people in New Zealand have acute difficulties using public transport. Progress in the sector has not been coordinated or comprehensive enough to provide accessible, available, affordable and acceptable public transport for disabled people. The need for accessible public transport will only increase as New Zealand's population ages.

Extensive consultation found cross-sector support for:
* Stronger leadership and coordination in the sector.
* Improved participation of disabled people in the planning process.
* Comprehensive disability awareness training and disability competency for transport personnel.
* Mandatory national accessibility design performance standards.
* A timetabled approach to implementation of the standards.
Recommendations
* Mandatory provision for the participation of disabled people in all public land transport planning, funding and implementation processes at central, regional and local government.

* The establishment of a national Ministerial advisory committee of disabled people to advise the Minister of Transport.
* The development of National Accessibility Design Performance Standards for Public Land Transport and ensure the implementation and monitoring of those standards.
* An implementation timetable (for the standards) of five-yearly steps, acknowledging current funding of large capital works and working to keep consistency with human rights obligations.
* Industry wide training in disability awareness and disability competency to be required for all public land transport personnel, and included in driver licensing and contract service delivery.
* A comprehensive review of School Transport Assistance to ensure non-discriminatory and equitable delivery to disabled students.
* A review by territorial authorities of the number and location of set down and pick up places for disabled passengers using taxis, and rigorously enforce clear bus stops.
* Bus providers take immediate steps to provide driver disability awareness and competency training for the benefit of all passengers, including secure seating and the elimination of 'rough driving'.
* Train providers make immediate improvements to visual and audible information at staffed stations, timetabling display and on-board announcements.
* The Human Rights Commission reviews progress in implementing these recommendations in 2010 and continues promoting the rights of disabled people to the accessible journey.

ENDS

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