Be it trains, planes or automobiles disabled people still face massive challenges in getting around.
- Disabled people travel a third less often than other people
- Over a third of disabled people who do travel experience difficulties, the most common being getting on or off trains or buses
- The national average for accessibility of buses is only around 30%
- Of disabled people who use public transport, over half (56%) have to resort to using costly taxis for easier access
- Nearly two-thirds (60%) of households containing a disabled person do not have access to a private car, compared to 27% of the general population
- More than one in five spaces reserved for disabled drivers are abused by non-disabled motorists
- In terms of convenience and ease of use, taxis and minicabs are rated the most highly, with rail services the worst
- Eight in ten disabled people never use light rail, tram or Underground services. Three-quarters never use ferry services and two-thirds do not fly
- Bus drivers are rated as the most unhelpful public transport employees by disabled people, with 20% of respondents saying that they are unhelpful, compared with 13% for train station staff, 6% for both on train staff and taxi drivers, and just 2% for airline stewards
- Nearly half (41%) of disabled people in England and Wales say they experience difficulty with traveling. A quarter (25%) experience difficulty travelling to and from the doctor or hospital, 23% have experienced problems visiting friends or relatives and 18% visiting leisure facilities. Some 23% of disabled workers say they find travelling to and from their place of work difficult
The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) Disabled for Life research found that the difficulties most commonly mentioned by disabled people in Great Britain were getting to and from bus stops or stations (22%) or on and off buses and trains (24%).
|Type of difficulty||Percentage|
|Getting to rail/bus station/stop||13%|
|Getting into rail/bus station||10%|
|Getting on/off bus or train||24%|
|Travelling by taxi||8%|
|Changing modes of transport||8%|
|Getting from bus stop/train station||9%|
|Getting information about accessible transport||6%|
|Ensuring assistance is available||5%|
|Same as non-disabled people||7%|
The above information was obtained from Disablist Britain - Barriers to independent living for disabled people in 2006. Paul Miller, Sarah Gillinson and Julia Huber, Demos.
Blind and partially sighted passengers may find it difficult in using stairs. Particularly if the design of handrails and the appropriate use of tactile warnings and colour contrast have not been considered. Visual information with no audible backup might present blind and partially sighted passengers with serious difficulty. Poor quality audible information will be a problem for blind and partially sighted passengers who rely solely on audible information. Glare from the glass screen at a ticket counter will be a problem because it makes use of their residual vision more difficult.
Lack of visual information is a problem to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Glare from the glass screen at a ticket counter is a problem for passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing because they cannot see the other person’s face for visual clues or lip-reading. Poor quality audible information is also a problem for passengers who are hard of hearing, especially where there is significant background noise.
A flight of stairs is a problem to a physically impaired passenger ie. a wheelchair user and to an elderly passenger. A confusing station layout is a problem for someone with walking difficulties and an elderly passenger, who may in consequence have to walk farther.
Cognitively impaired passengers would find a lack of visual information a problem. Poor signage, especially signage without appropriate pictograms, is a problem for cognitively impaired passengers. They would also have a problem with a confusing station layout as they may lose their way.
If you would like further statistical information on disabled people and their use of public transport, please click on the following links:
- Secondary analysis of existing data on disabled people’s use and experiences of public transport in Great Britain - A research report for the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) by Debbie Jolly, Mark Priestley and Bryan Matthews, Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds, October 2006
- Mind the Gap - A Social Exclusion Report by Jo Campion, Caroline Greenhalgh and John Knight, Leonard Cheshire, 2003
There are a number of reasons why operators should improve the accessibility of their services.
Firstly, improving accessibility is good for business. The profile of passengers (and potential passengers) of public transport is changing. Not only is the number of people with disabilities growing but the proportion of older people in the population is also increasing. These demographic changes will require improvement in the accessibility of public transport services. Improving accessibility will attract passengers who would not previously have considered using public transport.
Existing passengers, who may or may not have disabilities, will be encouraged to make more trips by public transport because it is easier or more convenient to use, more pleasant and satisfies their needs to a fuller extent. The introduction of low floor, accessible vehicles may also lead to reduction in dwell times at stops and stations as passengers can get on and off low floor vehicles more easily and quicker, thereby enabling vehicles to complete journeys quicker and thus possibly reducing the number of vehicles required to provide the same level of service.
Secondly, the legislative and regulatory framework has become more demanding for all parties in relation to providing fully accessible public transport services.
Finally, all citizens should be given equal consideration in the design and provision of public transport. The principle of equal treatment is particularly relevant to the public transport sector as it has the ability to enable people to gain access to all that society has to offer.
- Miller, P., Gillinson, S. & Huber, J. (2006) Disablist Britain - barriers to independent living for disabled people in 2006. London: SCOPE. [accessed 25/07/07].
- National Disability Authority (2005) Recommended Accessibility Guidelines for Public Transport Operators in Ireland. [accessed 25/07/07].