UK – a blind user sues the rail network for lack of tactile paving

In England Abdul Eneser, a 20-year-old blind man, is suing service provider Network Rail for failing to put in place tactile paving which, his lawyers claim, is in breach of their duties under equality laws, requiring rail operators to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. Having previously missed a connecting train he was not provided with passenger assist support, which helps disabled people navigate a station, being informed that everyone from passenger assist had gone home for the day.

As a result, Mr Eneser fell on to the track and narrowly missed being struck by a freight train. Quoted in the Guardian newspaper he stated “Visually impaired people should feel just as safe as sighted people when they embark on a train journey. My experience shows that Network Rail and train operating companies are failing to provide a proper service for visually impaired people.”

EBU’s UK member, RNIB commented that up to 15% of people falling from platforms are blind or partially sighted, and 40% of mainline railway stations lacked tactile paving, despite this being a fundamental safety measure.

This is clearly, therefore not an isolated example and the article mentions another man, Cleveland Gervais, who died when he fell from a platform in 2020, the inquest concluding that “lack of tactile paving caused or materially contributed to his death”.

The defendants will have two weeks after 17 July to respond to the court.

This case sadly illustrates the limits of a European approach to the rights of rail passengers with disabilities - still very present in the UK legislation after the Brexit - that focuses, not on allowing autonomous travel, in line with articles 9 and 20 of the UNCRPD, but rather on the provision of assistance, and this with exemptions for smaller stations.

For more details read the full article on the Guardian website. Also, an article containing further background information from RNIB on the situation in the UK and their campaign, following the death of Mr Gervais, mentioned above.