Menu Close

Do the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport Work?

A headshot photo of Alice Batchelor, Policy and Engagement Officer
Alice Batchelor, Policy and Engagement Officer

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) are undergoing their five-year review, and PDCN have been hard at work gathering and analysing information for a DSAPT review submission addressing what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change.

The DSAPT legislation is one of the ways that the Australian Government seeks to fulfil its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability and the Disability Discrimination Act. The Standards cover all aspects of public transport, including trains, buses, and ferries, as well as infrastructure. They also provide a guide to public transport providers on what the government expects in terms of inclusive transport, acting as the baseline of accessibility. The aim is to minimise discrimination faced by people with disability using the public transport system.

We conducted consultations with PDCN members to gather their thoughts on the current standards, asking whether they have reduced people with disabilities’ experiences of discrimination. We listened to members’ opinions on the changes that need to be made to ensure public transport is accessible.

What we found is that things have gotten better, which is very welcome. However, this is to be expected as technology and infrastructure improves, with a multitude of new vehicles and infrastructure introduced to the transport system. Issues still exist in several areas, including complaints and enforcement, disability awareness training for staff, timeframes for compliance and the accessibility of information systems.

The current mechanism for enforcing accessibility standards on public transport relies on people making complaints. While complaints are an important aspect of understanding issues experienced by users, it is not adequate for a model of enforcement. Too much responsibility is placed on the user lodging a complaint, and we know not everyone will want to go through this process. Making complaints also becomes an issue in itself, as the process is not entirely clear. There is a reliance on people calling a phone number or lodging a written complaint, however none of these state that they are disability specific or how complaints will be resolved.

We want to see the introduction of an independent body to monitor standards compliance and enforce timelines and mechanisms for achieving satisfactory levels of reduced discrimination. This is to move away from the reliance of complaints in the enforcement of the accessibility standards. We also want to see clearer information on how to make disability specific complaints.

There is an obvious and ongoing need for more extensive disability awareness training for transport staff. It is important that this also extends to the use and handling of assistive technology, as this is a common complaint that we have heard.

The DSAPT need to address the timeframes for public transport to comply with accessibility standards. The Transport Access Program which is working on making infrastructure fully accessible is currently 10 years behind schedule and was originally set to be completed by the end of 2022. Trains and trams have been set a 30-year timeframe to progressively become accessible. These extended and lengthy timeframes are letting people down. People need accessible transport now, and with half of people aged over 65 in Australia living with a disability, it is even more important that these changes are made soon. Our submission calls for full compliance within the next 10 years, and within 5 years for the Transport Access Program.

From listening to members’ experiences, we also found that there is a need for better and more accessible real-time data throughout the journey. This includes access to information on lift outages, changes to routes, and making timetables available in accessible formats.

Overall, it is good to see that improvements have been made with the DSAPT in place, however there is still a long way to go before we reach a fully accessible public transport system. We need to see a stronger commitment to hitting targets and making sure existing and future infrastructure meets standards for accessibility. These are attainable goals – they just need to be realised through the DSAPT, which must hold the public transport system accountable.

You can read our DSAPT review submission in Word document format here

Related Posts