The Transport Select Committee’s report, ‘Access to Transport for Disabled People’, describes UK transport for the disabled as ‘unacceptably poor’ and criticises the Department of Transport for watering down or abandoning key accessibility improvements.
In the report launched today, 17 September 2013, Louise Ellman, the chairwoman of the Committee, highlights that the changes made before the London Paralympic Games 2012 show the 'immense value' of better access for disabled people and believes there is a risk that the momentum since last year’s games had been lost.
The wide-ranging report aims to enable and encourage access to transport for disabled people and contains a number of key proposals. Among these proposals, the committee has urged the Department for Transport to seek to amend the European Union Regulations to allow carers to travel free of charge if airline rules mean disabled people have to be accompanied.
Furthermore, the report suggests that the Department for Transport should press the European Commission to bring forward proposals to provide adequate compensation for damaged mobility equipment. The current liability of airlines for damaged baggage is approximately £1,800, a sum which is far lower than the cost of some mobility equipment.
Further proposals include training all rail and bus staff in disability awareness in addition to requiring all train operators to bring in ‘organized assistance’ for disabled people as standard. The report also suggests introducing financial incentives to ensure all taxis and private hire vehicles are fully accessible within 10 years.
The Committee also argues that the changes would boost the economy by enabling disabled people to visit cafes and shops and making it easier to reach healthcare centres, reducing the need for home visits.
Alison Johnson, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “Such improvements to the UK’s transport system should deliver a wide range of benefits, not only for the government and the economy but also for disabled people. If such proposals are implemented, disabled people would rightfully be able to experience and enjoy the same opportunities as anyone else.
“We are currently working with a number of families with disabled family members from whom we regularly hear how difficult travel and holidays can be and how costs are often prohibitive. We hope the recommendations will go some way to rectifying that.”