The Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure has been leading an excellent consultation about how to improve the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. This law imposes requirements to make public transport more accessible for people with disabilities. It’s why Transport Canberra is retiring the last of the old orange Renault buses this year: from 2023, all buses must be step-free and wheelchair accessible.
The Standards date back to 2002, and the world has changed a lot since then. There’s greater awareness of how disabilities can affect mobility, and better technology and engineering to support people. There are also new modes of transport, such as rideshare, which aren’t covered by the new standards. So the consultation looked at 54 reform areas where revised Standards could make things more accessible.
Some of these reform areas are what you’d expect: access to lifts, level boarding, signage and audio information. But others were less obvious, like lighting or print sizes. A 390 page regulatory impact statement examined all these issues, and how to best address them.
PTCBR gets involved in a lot of consultations, and this one seemed very interesting to us. While we didn’t get much feedback from members or the community, we were keen to see what the Department had to say, so a PTCBR representative who works with the disability community attended a webinar hosted by the Department. He came away very impressed: the reforms were focused on ensuring uniform design across all parts of the journey to ensure people with disabilities can access the whole journey. Public transport is a series of connected movements, so if any one part of this is inaccessible, then the whole journey is inaccessible.
Ultimately, we didn’t have much to say on this one, which is surprising for us! However, we hope that other people out there were able to provide detailed feedback for the consultation. Sometimes consultations don’t reach the people they’re intended for, when it’s affecting some of the more vulnerable members of our community. Fortunately in this case, the consultation is being led by Graeme Innes, a former Disability Commissioner who has a keen interest in transport issues, so we’re confident the Department is going to be well informed.