Disabled campaigners and their allies have called on the transport secretary to restore “vital” government funding for projects to improve access to rail stations across England, Wales and Scotland. In a letter signed by more than 50 organisations, Transport for All (TfA) – which campaigns for an accessible transport system – calls on Chris Grayling to restore tens of millions of pounds of funding for the Access for All scheme that has been deferred by the government. The letter says that deferring half of all planned Access for All projects means that the “already slow progress on rail access has all but ground to a halt”. The decision by the chair of Network Rail – later rubber-stamped by Grayling – to cut Access for All funding for 2014-19 from £102 million to £55 million, with the rest carried over to 2019-24, was first revealed by Disability News Service last year. The letter has been sent as Grayling is due today (Thursday) to announce future levels of Network Rail funding, which
Campaigners from across the country gathered outside parliament this week to call for an end to unsafe “shared space” street designs, which risk turning public spaces into “no go zones” for many disabled and older people. The protest was organised by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), and attended by members of Transport for All (TfA), and campaigners from Save Our Green Lanes, Enfield Town Residents Association and East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum. They were joined by Michael Pringle, whose three-year-old son Clinton was killed after he was hit by a vehicle in a shared space scheme while on holiday in Jersey last year. Protesters later delivered a letter to the prime minister at Number 10, which calls for an end to all shared space street developments. Shared space schemes usually remove kerbs and controlled crossings, encouraging vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to share the same space, but posing greater risks for partially-sighted and blind
The bus industry is facing fresh legal action over its failure to ensure disabled people have access to the designated wheelchair spaces on buses, six months after a Supreme Court judgment that campaigners hoped would finally settle the issue. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in January that wheelchair-users have a right to priority access over the wheelchair space on a bus, and that a driver must do more than just ask a non-disabled passenger to move if they are occupying the space and it is needed by someone using a wheelchair. But accessible transport campaigners said this week that, although there had been an initial improvement following the judgment, standards “were starting to slip again”. London’s user-led accessible transport charity, Transport for All (TfA), met last week to mark six months since the Supreme Court judgment. The meeting heard from one wheelchair-user and activist who said she had decided to take action over the repeated failure of a bus company to enforce
The bus industry is facing fresh legal action over its failure to ensure disabled people have access to the designated wheelchair spaces on buses, six months after a Supreme Court judgment that campaigners hoped would finally settle the issue.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in January that wheelchair-users have a right to priority access over the wheelchair space on a bus, and that a driver must do more than just ask a non-disabled passenger to move if they are occupying the space and it is needed by someone using a wheelchair.
But accessible transport campaigners said this week that, although there had been an initial improvement following the judgment, standards “were starting to slip again”.
London’s user-led accessible transport charity, Transport for All (TfA), met last week to mark six months since the Supreme Court judgment.
The meeting heard from one wheelchair-user
A new user-led campaign is calling on the government to address the “disgraceful” and “unacceptable” treatment experienced by disabled rail passengers. Transport for All (TfA) has issued a series of seven demands to the government and rail industry as part of its Rail Access Now campaign, and has described the current situation as a source of “national shame”. Next month, on 5 April, TfA is planning a protest about access to services on the much-criticised Southern Rail network. The campaign has been backed by Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike and commuter Dave McQuirk, who both spoke this week of the “shocking” treatment they have received when using the rail system as wheelchair-users. Among TfA’s demands is for the government to reverse the “shameful” decision to defer until at least 2019 nearly half of the planned spending on its Access for All programme, which provides funding to improve access at rail stations. The funding delays were first revealed by Disability News Service last
Staffing cuts across the rail industry – forced on train companies by the government – are damaging the rights of disabled passengers to catch trains without having to book assistance in advance, according to campaigners. The user-led accessible transport charity Transport for All (TfA) said the Department for Transport (DfT) was embedding such cuts in rail franchise agreements with train companies, making it even harder for disabled and older people who need assistance to board and disembark trains to travel “spontaneously”. Two representatives of the rail industry appeared to agree that the government was to blame and had forced the staffing cuts on train-operating companies – affecting station and on-board staff – although one of them later appeared to backtrack on that claim. Faryal Velmi, TfA’s director, told Tuesday’s Pan London Mobility Forum: “‘Turn up and go’ is not rocket science. “We are living in one of the richest cities, in one of the richest countries in the world.” She
By Raya Al Jadir Disabled transport campaigners have called on three train companies to remove blanket bans that prevent all scooter-users from using their services. To mark the campaign, members of the user-led campaigning organisation Transport for All (TfA) took part on Tuesday in a musical conga through Victoria station in London. They presented a letter to a manager of Gatwick Express, which does not allow any scooters onto its older 442-type trains* – because of its single doors and narrower ramps – unless they can be folded up and taken on as hand-luggage. The action was led by scooter-user Gina Vettese, who is taking legal action against another rail company, Northern Rail, over its blanket ban, following an incident as she returned from a trip to visit her family in Morecambe last Christmas. Vettese faced few problems on the journey to Morecambe from Lancaster, but on the return trip she was told she would not be allowed on the train unless she folded her scooter and carried
Some disabled people have been “let down” by the Equality Act when it comes to access to public transport, a disabled campaigner has told members of the House of Lords.aigning organisation Transport for All, told peers that wheelchair-users were often “helpless” in trying to access wheelchair spaces on buses when they find them occupied by pushchairs or non-disabled passengers.
She said that many members of Transport for All had “given up the struggle” and no longer access transport because it was “too great a risk”.
She told the committee examining the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people that she had once been refused access to buses four times in one week because there were pushchairs in the wheelchair space.
Pedler said: “Everyone takes possession of our wheelchair space. That’s the greatest problem. We are helpless to get this put right. It happens all the time.”
She added: “I am talking as a disabled person. I haven’t got fine words for you. I am talking to you as I experience it, along with all the other members in Transport for All.”
Told by Graham Pendlebury, the Department for Transport’s director of local transport, that the bus industry had made progress in providing accessible vehicles, she said: “I don’t argue that these buses are accessible, but if we cannot get on them and we cannot access the pavements because they are too dangerous for us, having access is of little importance to us.
“Progress has certainly slowed – this is the opinion of Transport for All – since the Equality Act.”
The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell asked the three-person panel whether it was fair that disabled passengers had to phone up 24 hours in advance when they wanted assistance to use a train.
She said: “This is the blight of disabled people’s lives, that they cannot be spontaneous.”
Pedler said that TFA saw the requirement for disabled people to book assistance 24 hours in advance of a train journey as a “great injustice”, while some companies asked for 48 hours’ notice.
She said: “It stops us from being flexible. We can’t change our mind and go out to lunch with a friend. It takes away our independence and our freedom of choice.”
And she said she had often been unable to board a train even after booking assistance in advance.
Keith Richards, chair of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, said having to give notice two days in advance was “not equality”, and that it should be possible to send a text or use a smartphone app just a couple of hours beforehand to alert the relevant rail operator.
Pedler also told the committee that the Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker had promised five years ago that laws on access to taxis, originally included 20 years ago in the Disability Discrimination Act – and later in section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 – would be implemented, but the promise was “taking a very long time to come to fruition”.
Richards said it made “absolute sense” for section 165 to be implemented.
He said: “There are many, many stories that we hear of people who are charged extra, who aren’t assisted or who aren’t even provided with the service because the taxi-driver will see them in advance and drive somewhere else. That is completely unacceptable.”
Pendlebury told the committee there were “a number of reasons” why section 165 had not yet been implemented, and he said it was “under constant review”.
He said: “The concerns were around burdens on drivers and whether this particular provision would actually fully meet the varied needs of different types of disabled people.
“I don’t believe that taxi-drivers or minicab drivers are bad people and threatening them with enforcement and fines – whether that is the right way to bring about a change in procedure.
“I think that government is keen to try to avoid a very heavy-handed implementation and to make sure that enforcement is a last resort.”
But he added: “Clearly we have seen much evidence about how catastrophic it can be for people when they are either mistreated in this way or denied access.”
Baroness Deech, the crossbench peer who chairs the committee, said it had been the “will of parliament” that section 165 should be introduced.
She said: “The burden is now being borne by those people who need those taxis and can’t get them. There can be no questioning of this.”
She added: “I still haven’t heard a decent reason why section 165 should not be brought into effect, so we note that.”
And she asked Pendlebury to ask his minister to write to the committee to explain why section 165 had not yet been implemented and when that would happen.
Baroness Campbell asked Pendlebury to show the committee the research on which the government had based its position that implementing section 165 could be a “burden” on drivers.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com
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