Under the Disability Act 2005, six Irish Government departments produced disability sectoral plans, outlining how they will comply with the Act. These plans look at how mainstream services can be made accessible to people with disabilities and highlight the need for specific services where gaps exist. Each of these plans was reviewed during 2009 and NCBI made a submission to each review.
The Department of Transport Disability Sectoral Plan 2006-2009 and its Progress Report 2009 outlines the Irish government's commitments to making public transport accessible to all. These documents are available on the Department's website at www.transport.ie.
Public transport accessibility is also being progressed in the context of the “Transport Access for All” report. This report sets out a series of policy objectives and targets for accessible public transport. The 2008 edition of Transport Access for All acknowledges the public transport responsibilities arising for the Department of Transport under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is available on the Department's website www.transport.ie.
The Public Transport Accessibility Committee, on which NCBI sits, is the principal consultative forum on public transport accessibility in Ireland. It is comprised of representatives of older people, the main disability organisations including NCBI, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, public and private transport operators including Iarnród Éireann and LUAS, the National Disability Authority, the Commission for Taxi Regulation, the Dublin Airport Authority, the Maritime Safety Directorate and the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government. NCBI also has representatives with impaired vision on the Public Transport Disability User Groups which listen to and advise both Iarnród Éireann and LUAS, mentioned below. These are people with impaired vision who use these forms of transport.
Significant resources for public transport accessibility are factored into Transport 21, the Government's public transport capital investment framework for the period 2006 - 2015.
Disability Awareness Training
The Department of Transport Disability Sectoral Plan 2006-2009 Progress Report states that at end 2008, disability awareness training was well underway in Iarnród Éireann, Veolia Transport (who operate the LUAS service) and the Railway Procurement Agency. It was also available to Department of Transport staff.
Iarnród Éireann http://www.luas.ie is the only national rail service in Ireland. Iarnród Éireann claims that “since 2000, all new railway stations have been designed and constructed in accordance with accessibility standards and best international practice”. This is not correct as some new stations and some retrofitted stations still do not comply with accessibility standards. Some examples include: incorrect usage of tactile paving and a lack of consistency regarding how large areas of glass and glass doors are marked. Clear, audible announcements at train stations, so that people with vision impairments can be sure that they are getting onto the right train, also remain unreliable and inconsistent.
Iarnród Éireann also operates the DART, Dublin's commuter rail network. The Department's Disability Sectoral Plan Progress Report 2006-2009, Iarnród Éireann repeats its commitment to have all rolling stock, which includes DART trains, to “be accessible by the end of 2009”. It is now June 2010, and NCBI is concerned that it is still not always the case that audible announcements of stations are made on all DART trains. It is NCBI's view that as long as audible announcements are not provided in all carriages of all trains, they cannot be called “accessible”.
NCBI however is delighted to see significantly improved accessibility features at DART stations in more recent times.
The regional concession scheme is closely modelled after the national system whereby the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge.
LUAS Dublin's Light Rail Tram System http://www.luas.ie was designed from the outset to be accessible. While it is true that the LUAS has very accessible vehicles and stops, getting to and from some LUAS stops is difficult and dangerous for people with impaired vision. NCBI has called for consultation between NCBI, LUAS and Dublin City Council about this matter.
LUAS is currently in the process of extending its lines, and the first line extension has brought a problem with it. Passengers with impaired vision have no way of knowing whether the tram which they are boarding is or is not going to their chosen destination. This information is available in LED on the front and side of each tram, and in Real Time Information Display at each stop, but anyone whose vision impairment prevents them from reading these displays does not know where the tram is going until after they have boarded it. The on-board audible announcement of the final destination is not made at all stops, and even when it is provided, there is insufficient time allowed for passengers to get back off if they are on the wrong tram. This matter has been brought to the attention of LUAS management, who say that they are working to correct this problem.
Under Transport 21, a brand new Metro North line is planned to run from Dublin's City Centre via Dublin Airport to north of the City. Find out more at www.transport21.ie/Projects/Metro_-_Luas/Metro_North.html
The Department of Transport Disability Sectoral Plan Progress Report states that “Accessibility was incorporated into the designs for Metro North and refinements included, where possible, following consultations with individual disability groups. Detailed accessibility audits of the proposed Metro stops were undertaken and the specification for Metro vehicles also incorporated requirements for accessibility which draw substantially on feedback from the disability groups represented in the LUAS User Group as well as current legislation and recommendations from authorities both in Ireland and abroad.”
There have been numerous opportunities for NCBI to comment on plans and explain our perspective to those involved in planning this new service. We hope that our input will be taken into account, and that this service will be even more accessible than LUAS.
The urban concession scheme is closely modelled after the national and regional systems whereby the visually impaired passenger and the guide or guide dog all travel free of charge.
The Irish Transport Company (CIE) signed the IUR Agreement on Rail Transport for Blind People and their Guide issued in 1997 and amended in 2005. 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.
In theory, it is impossible to benefit from Irish 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. Guide dogs travelling to Ireland are subject to quarantine regulations.
Our thanks to the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) for their valuable help.