Seanad debates

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Public Transport

10:30 am

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

The Senator is absolutely right to quote Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As she said, the article puts obligations on State parties to ensure access for persons with disabilities to, inter alia, transportation in both urban and rural areas. In line with that article, my Department and its agencies are progressively making public transport accessible for people with disabilities, including in rural areas, by ensuring that new infrastructure and services are accessible from the start, and by retrofitting older legacy infrastructure and facilities to make them accessible.

Accessibility features, such as wheelchair accessibility and audio or visual aids or both, are built into all new public transport infrastructure projects and vehicles from their design stage. Newer systems such as the Luas are fully accessible, as are all new buses purchased by the National Transport Authority. However, as the examples cited by the Senator in respect of Connolly Station and Mr. Morgan and his difficulties show, work remains to be done, particularly on the retrofitting of older legacy infrastructure such as a lot of our Victorian-era train stations. My Department, therefore, funds an ongoing accessibility retrofit programme that is managed by the NTA, which includes programmes to install accessible bus stops in rural and regional areas, to upgrade bus bays at regional bus and train stations, to upgrade train stations to make them accessible to wheelchair users and to provide grant support to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis.

The Department has developed a number of three-year sectoral plans called Transport Access for All, under the Disability Act 2005. The concept for Transport Access for All is based on the principle of accessible public transport that does not distinguish between people with disabilities and other passengers. The third sectoral plan was published in 2012. The first whole-of-government national disability inclusion strategy, NDIS, was established in 2013, followed by the current NDIS for the years 2017 to 2022, which covers all sectors of society, including transport.

In addition to the NDIS, the UNCRPD, and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities 2015-2024, there are a range of other national strategies that contain actions towards making public transport accessible for persons with disabilities, persons with reduced mobility and older people. All of these actions across all such strategies have been combined into the Department of Transport's accessibility work programme, which is in effect the successor to the sectoral plans.

My Department's accessibility work programme provides the framework for prioritising projects and programmes to progressively make public transport accessible. It is a living document that is updated quarterly in advance of meetings of the accessibility consultative committee, ACC, and the NDIS steering group.

Under the national disability inclusion strategy, each Department is required to have a disability consultative committee to oversee and monitor the actions assigned to it and its agencies. My Department's consultative committee is called the accessibility consultative committee. It is the successor to the Department's public transport accessibility committee, which was established in 2000. Members of the accessibility consultative committee are drawn from organisations that represent people with disabilities, members of the disability stakeholders group and key agencies under the aegis of my Department, as well as other relevant State agencies. The ACC uses the accessibility work programme to monitor progress in progressively making public transport accessible in line with the UNCRPD, the NDIS and other national strategies. The next accessibility work programme update will be published in early December on the gov.ieportal. That is where previous updates along with minutes of all ACC meetings can be found.


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