Monday, May 27, 2024

‘Poor design’ of public transport infrastructure ‘unsafe’, says disability charity

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Ireland’s current public transport infrastructure is not accessible and not fit for purpose, a leading charity has said.

More than three-quarters of wheelchair users said they felt unsafe using public transport infrastructure, such as bus stops, crossing cycle lanes or using shared paths with cyclists.

In its new report, Going Nowhere, the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) also found that over half of respondents reported difficulties accessing public transport. Currently, Ireland has no mandatory requirements for disability access to public transport infrastructure.

The IWA is calling for legislative change including the implementation of legally binding standards, as well as monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. People with disabilities are being discouraged from using public transport by designs that exclude, said Elaine Howley, who has impaired vision.

“My life is changing, and my independence is being reduced, as my anxiety levels increase and it’s all down to poor design and no one prioritising my needs and my safety,” she said.

The dangerous nature of floating bus islands is just one of the issues raised in the report, something that National Advocacy Manager at IWA, Joan Carthy, said she has highlighted on numerous occasions.

“The current design is unsafe for everyone,” she said. “This is ignoring the dangerous situation that will lead to the injury and social exclusion of people with disabilities.”

One respondent who wished to remain anonymous said: “I have had near misses with cyclists who have nearly clipped me, as I try to navigate the small island. If they hit me, that’s it.”

Shared spaces between pedestrians and cyclists have appeared numerous times in policies aimed at meeting climate objectives, but the IWA said these are not safe.

The idea ignores the needs of people with disabilities and “flies in the face” of objections voiced during consultation periods. The report also details Ireland’s failure to deliver on its 2018 commitments to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Disabled people must have a seat at the table and be included in the decision-making process of creating and implementing mandatory accessibility requirements,” said Ms Carthy. “This has been recognised by the UN and must be embraced by this government.”

The report said that access to public transport is not simply about accessing the physical environment but about people with disabilities being able to realise their right to live life fully and independently.

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