More than 160 new improvement opportunities have been identified by Transport for NSW as they aim to address the needs of disabled customers through their new Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2018-22.
The new improvements build on the work of the New South Wales (NSW) Government’s 2012 plan, and focus on reducing transport disadvantage in areas such as journey planning, staff training, customer services and the interaction between transport modes.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson says the department recognises the importance of improving accessible facilities and services across the network for those with disability or limited mobility.
“The previous Plan resulted in 165 railway stations becoming fully accessible, with upgrades including new ramps and lifts and a commitment to further improvements to access across the transport network,” the spokesperson says.
“We will continue with our current commitment of upgrading transport infrastructure to make access easier for all our customers, while strengthening other areas which will make getting from point A to B easier.”
The spokesperson adds that ongoing engagement with people with disability through Accessible Transport Advisory Committee and the 43 submissions received through feedback channels, highlighting what matters most to customers, is at the heart of the initiative.
“That feedback has not only provided and invaluable insight into what people with disability see as important, but also compliments our program to make all transport services accessible and establish Transport NSW as an employer of choice for people with disability,” the spokesperson explains.
Transport NSW says that the Disability Inclusion Action Plan is an “integral part” of the new Future Transport Strategy, a document that will provide a framework for the state’s transport needs through to 2056.
Adding that with more than 1.4 million people in NSW living with a disability, having the plan as a “key support document” for the department’s 40 year strategy, means “the needs of all customers are placed front and centre”.
Disability advocacy group National Disability Services NSW has welcomed the improvements made, and identified, and the attention that the Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP) and Transport NSW is giving to the accessibility of public transport infrastructure and “absolutely supports” the principles of independent and equivalent access.
NDS Sector Support Consultant Jessica Lobo says that while there have been accessibility improvements to transport infrastructure, there are some gaps in the data outlines in the 2018-2022 Transport NSW DIAP which “require further investigation”.
The inaccessibility of regional and rural public transport far outweighs that of metropolitan Sydney,” she says.
“The 2018-2022 plan makes a mention of transport disadvantage but we would like to see strategies that are aimed at addressing some of the core issues such as cost and plans to address geographic remoteness.”
She adds that even if all public transport infrastructure is 100 percent accessible, “there are still over 150,000 people in NSW who are unable to use public transport due to their support requirements”.
“In this respect, access to transport, including Community Transport, transport delivered by service providers, and private transport should be included in the understanding of accessibility,” Ms Lobo says.
She also says that the improvements to the current 165 stations “only constitutes 53.7 percent of the total accessible stations on the Sydney Trains and Intercity networks, and says the noted 160 improvements are most welcome but says “most are not accompanied by timeframes”.
NDS say the accessible public transport has the potential to facilitate greater independence for many people with disability, noting that ir minimises reliance on family and carers to support community access.
The Advocacy group hopes to see similar initiatives rolled out across the nation.