Two aspects of this article have been examined;
National Rail Travel
The Act 183/2006 act., on town and country planning and building code, the so called Building Act, is relevant to every building. The Decree 398/2009 Coll. on general technical requirements to secure barrier-free usage of buildings (hereafter the Decree) is one of the decrees of Building Act, and covers new transport buildings/constructions, as well as reconstructions. This Decree is valid from 2001 and specifies layout of all buildings in such a way that they become suitable for self-reliant and safe motion of handicapped people. The Decree is legally binding.
In Czech Republic, there is only one rail operator. The Decree is part of the internal rules of the operator, specifying in detail technical procedures how one does do anything.
The layout of stops and platforms are specified in detail in the regulations. There are two major kinds of adaptation: tactile and acoustic.
Blindness-related mobility information in pedestrian surfaces of pavements, open spaces, bus & railway platforms, underground stations, etc. can be compensated for by introducing various forms of artificial guide lines. The tactile contrast with the adjacent flooring, identifiable by white cane or even by foot, can be created by special rough-surfaced or slightly uneven paving.
Guide lines like warning stripes on railway platforms indicate the edge, and guide a blind traveler safely along their overall length. Conspicuous 15-centrimetres wide yellow strips, incorporated in this type of guide lines, help low vision persons.
Standard signaling stripes installed on platforms mark the location of significant zones such as underpasses stairways, lifts, entrances to passenger-handling areas, exits, and/or non-public spaces. These are the same signaling stripes which are used throughout the town on other communications.
The end of a platform and other dangerous areas are marked by a warning strip. This is made of raised tiling, used elsewhere for the same purpose.
The tactile installations also include information labels embossed in Braille. Located on the stairway railings leading to a railway station platform, they give the platform number and/or track numbers. They can also contain information on the destination of an underpass stairway as well as about the situation on the surface.
Low vision perception can be boosted by evenly distributed, sufficiently intense, yet non-dazzling lighting. It is necessary to avoid sharp differences in lighting – for instance, when leaving a sun-lit outdoor area and entering a passenger hall of a transport facility. The environment can be also made more user-friendly by appropriately applied colour or, at least, light contrast.
The runner (upper and only upper surface) of the first and last step of each stairway in public buildings shall differ in surface texture from the surrounding flooring. Large glazed walls and doors shall be fitted with contrasting ribbons at the average eye-height, i.e. between 140 and 160 centimetres. Information signs and pictograms in transport facilities shall be sufficient in size, in contrast against the background, and sufficiently lit. This group of measures also includes the requirement of colour-contrasting design as regards signal and warning stripes, tactile stripes, lift controls, etc.
Since 2007, acoustic installations have been massively fitted at pedestrian crossings/railway junctions. Using button nr. 5 of the widely spread remote activation controlling device, a blind pedestrian makes sure that the junction is clear to cross. The installation is identical to the ordinary and very widely deployed acoustic road crossings, there are just only two differences: the acoustic signal of most of road crossings is permanent and not remote controlled, and then there is also a shift in frequency so that one is able to distinguish railway junctions from ordinary crossings.
Fixed Sound Beacons provide sound and/or voice (text) information about important orientation points. These include buildings, underpasses, shops, etc. entrances as well as beginnings of escalators and passenger conveyors. In expansive areas such as railway stations or complex underpasses, sound beacons can be used to create a system of audible orientation cues. Beacons are mandatory by the Decree.
Beacon installation instructions are in general defined in the Building act, but are progressively included in the internal rules of the rail operator.
Station equipment marking in timetables
Since adaptations spread across the board, it is advantageous to mark the information on facilities of each specific station in the schedule. This is just in a preparation phase, starting from fall 2010 there shall be a special mark along each station describing the extent of Decree compliance for VI, Z1 for tactile only adaptations, Z2 for acoustic only adaptations, or Z3 for full compliance with the Decree. Zero or no mark at all means the station has not yet been fitted by any special equipment or adaptation. Such timetables will be available in electronic format only.
Information systems on railways
The Decree states that it is necessary to make transport information available to the blinds. For the present no-one know how best to do so, but information stands (with voice output) are beginning to be installed. So far there are only a few of them, hopefully they will be included in the internal rules of the rail operator, so that they would become mandatory for newly reconstructed stations. A few stands are being tested.
Training of employees who have contact with VI passengers had a great impact on formation of rules dealing with handicapped people. Though this is a purely voluntary measure, it proved very successful, visually impaired passengers noticed the difference. It is worth noting that it is absolutely necessary that a professional instructor dealing with the blind does the training. A rapid training session makes a real difference. The block on dealing with visually impaired passengers has become a standard part of training schemes.
Newly produced trains for regional transport are adapted as follows: bars, handles, doorstep stair edges, train doors and seat covers are in contrasting colours for low-vision people. Blind citizens may open the door using their remote control described above, there is a jingle beacon above the door capable of both guiding to the door as well as opening it. Control elements like emergency brakes or other communication cord-like engine driver signaling devices are Braille labeled. We expect the number of carriers to rise in the future, but for now we have not got any regulation which would oblige them to adopt such adaptations. For now it is a voluntary agreement between CBU and the Czech Railways Monopoly only.
There is an EU directive, a technical specification of interoperability, which is considerably less demanding than our local regulations as to both train as well as station adaptations. Though an EU grant may be used for such purposes, we obey our national regulations and not the simpler European ones.
In the Czech Republic, the visually impaired are entitled to 75% discount and the guide or guide dog does not pay to travel on the national rail network.
Regional Rail Travel
Urban Rail Travel
The following is the result of a CBU initiative and the cooperation of the Prague Public Transit Co.. Public transport in Prague is very accessible in general, starting from accessible internet timetable through stop name announcement inside any vehicle to on-demand identification of any bus or tram arriving at a station. On the Metro adaptations include special guide lines, beacons identifying the entrance as well as escalators (together with the information on each hand rail) and automatic opening of all doors.
The high-quality stone-paving of Prague Underground platforms allows the inclusion of narrow and shallow guiding lines which do not interfere with other passengers. These lines are essential at those Metro stations which lack natural orientation cues such as massive support pillars, etc. A straight line throughout the whole platform shortly interrupted at points of possible interest allows to both finding the right exit and safe platform crossing. The guide line consists of three parallel grooves, about 70 millimeters each apart, 12 millimeters in width and 1 to 7 millimeters in depth. The line is parallel to the platform edge and has to start and end in such a way that a blind person cannot get from the stairs or escalator directly to the platform edge without crossing the line.
Starting from 1999 the Public Transit Co. has been equipping all new or newly reconstructed stations with a 150 millimeters wide safety strip. The strip is black and white contrasted for low-vision persons, as well as well detectable by a white cane or by foot for the blind. Tiling is made of polymer concrete, and thus colours are strong and protrusions are very durable.
Navigating beacons have begun to be installed in the metro long before regulation made it necessary. Even reconstructed escalators were equipped with beacons. Of course from the time the Decree was validated, the company continues in full compliance with the regulations.
Transnational Rail Travel
The Czech Railways (CD) signed the IUR Agreement on Rail Transport for Blind People and their Guide issued in 1997 and amended in 2005. In theory, visually impaired people residing in and travelling to any of the countries who signed this Agreement are entitled to a free ticket for their guide or guide dog provided that the return ticket is purchased in the country where the disability card was issued. In practice the Agreement does not apply to additional fees such as ‘reservation' or ‘couchette' which must be paid in full for both passengers. Furthermore, a survey conducted by EBU in 2000 revealed that in many countries the Agreement was not well known or was simply ignored by transport operators and authorities.
Visiting the Czech Republic
In theory, it is impossible to benefit from Czech schemes as a foreign visitor as locally-financed concessions are limited to local residents. In practice, concessions are sometimes granted depending on the willingness of ticket vendors.
How many guide dog users are there in your country? The number of guide dogs varies on a day to day basis as new dogs enter service and others are withdrawn. Please provide an estimate figure.
Approximately 600 guide dog users.
What regulations, if any, govern guide dogs access to:
In our country there are not any official rules, or any special legislation for guide dogs. In all spaces (buildings, restaurants etc.) it is only on decision of owner, usually in government buildings it is not a problem. They are now working on legislation and we hope that it will be changed.
Public buildings (administration, hospitals, schools, etc.)
Cultural and sports facilities (cinemas, theatres, museums, libraries, stadiums etc.)
Leisure facilities (restaurants, hotels, holiday centres, beaches, etc.)
Retail facilities (supermarkets, department stores, shops, etc.)
There is very similar situation in public transport, it may be better in big cities
What are the regulations for the import and export of dogs into/from your country, including quarantine and vaccination procedures?
Only vaccination against rabies.
Are exceptions made for guide dogs?
Are the regulations such as to restrict spontaneous voyages?
How much time is needed to fulfil the requirements?
For the first time
For subsequent visits with the same dog
Only normal visit to the vet and there are no differences between the first and subsequent visits.
Is there a certification process for the training and provision of guide dogs? If yes, please provide basic details, in particular on the difference between mandatory and optional certifications.
Is there an allowance or other financial aid to help guide dog users with the upkeep of their animals (food, veterinary, etc.)?
There is financial aid for food (approx. 32 euro per month), but maybe it will be changed next year.
(§46 „Benefit to Totally or Almost Totally Blind Citizens“)