Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Accessibility of Public Transport for People with Disabilities: Motion


6:15 pm

Photo of Brendan  RyanBrendan Ryan (Dublin Fingal, Labour) | Oireachtas source

It is absolutely imperative that we support the actions recommended in this report to fix the barriers to accessibility within Ireland's transportation system. At present, those in the disabled community are being treated as second class citizens. Due to the fact that public transportation has not been made accessible for their use, their freedom has been limited and many have been forced to live a life of isolation. While the needs of the disabled community are incredibly diverse, we have a responsibility to these citizens, as their representatives, to build the infrastructure of Ireland to meet their needs.

Some of the key recommendations within this report include the following: providing passenger information in accessible formats, especially when there are cancellations, interruptions or delays; confirming that emergency procedures provide accessible evacuation routes; supplying taxi tokens for individuals when there are no public transportation options available; and making accessible facilities available without prior booking. This problem of inaccessible public transportation has become an issue of human rights. Disabled citizens of Ireland should be able to move freely without compromising their safety and dignity. Spontaneity is one of the greatest privileges stripped from the disabled community within our current system because they must book aid services at least 24 hours ahead of time. Granted, the DART has now reduced that time to four hours, but that still does not change the problem that individuals cannot access services when they need to make an unplanned trip, such as in the case of needing to visit a family member in hospital. Life often does not go to plan and forcing these individuals to know when they are going to need to use public transport strips them of their ability to live autonomous lifestyles. This problem could be fixed if funding were to be allocated to ensure each station is always manned with trained staff members who can make each individual's journey as seamless as possible.

The services we are pledging to provide must also be implemented with consequences for the transportation providers, if the services fail to work in the way they are intended. The Labour Party disability chair, Mick Keegan, gives an example of this when he says:

A lot of money has been invested in making kerbs high enough to allow wheelchair access to Dublin Buses. We need drivers to pull in so people can actually use them. We need to work on road design to make sure this is always possible and we need to improve training of drivers.

There are also other experiences reported where disabled passengers have pressed the emergency assistance buttons on the train and found them broken or ignored. These experiences are abhorrent and unacceptable. The staff who are failing to complete their duties must be held accountable and each station must ensure that there are enough employees always on duty to aid disabled individuals in need of assistance. When stations are left unstaffed, this issue becomes a problem of public safety for all citizens. Individuals who frequently experience horrendous conditions while travelling quickly become disheartened and frightened when it comes to their ability to travel, so they will be much less likely to want to try it again.

Beyond making this system accessible for individuals with disabilities, the public transportation system should also be welcoming and encouraging of their use of the system. When people feel their use of provided services is resented by staff because of the extra work such services require, yet another barrier is constructed between the disabled community and their freedom. The best way for this report to have its desired impact is for the committee to continue to work hand in hand with the disabled community to ensure that the needs of their diverse community are met.

I thank the Acting Chairman for allowing me to contribute. I congratulate the joint committee members and Chair on their work. I am the spokesperson on transport for the Labour Party but we do not have a position on that committee. The presentation of committee reports in the Dáil Chamber on a Thursday evening is a great development and it is very important that it continues. I also congratulate Senator John Dolan as a key influencer in all of this.


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