Accessible transport roadmap must get back on track
Accessible transport is essential for people living with disability to attend essential appointments, work, education, and other ordinary activities of daily life. Without suitable transport options, people are cut off from vital services, such as healthcare, and become increasingly isolated from their communities. Yet Australian governments are failing to deliver on the roadmap for making public transport services fully accessible, as was promised in 2002.
The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 are formulated under the federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and aim to eliminate discrimination and segregation on the grounds of disability from transport services. The Transport Standards cover conveyances (for example, the buses and trains), equipment (for example, boarding ramps), infrastructure (that is, the structures that are required to enable travel, such as station platforms), and premises (that is, the buildings, and facilities associated with travel, like public toilets), as well as the operators and providers of transport services including governments.
When the Transport Standards were introduced in 2002, they were supposed to ensure that all public transport networks and associated infrastructure, except for the trains and trams, would be fully accessible by the end of 2022 (train and tram conveyances have until 2032 to comply). JFA Purple Orange believes that the 20-year transition timeline was reasonable and deliverable, but with only a few months to go until the end of 2022, it is clear that many of the promised outcomes will not be achieved on time. While some welcome progress has been made, we share the disability community’s disappointment at the failure of governments to deliver all that was promised.
People living with disability regularly share with us the widespread barriers they still experience in accessing transport. The most recent Australian Infrastructure Audit conducted in 2019 by Infrastructure Australia concluded: “Despite inconsistent data, available information shows it is unlikely that services and infrastructure in most jurisdictions will be fully compliant with legislated requirements within the mandated timeframe ... Progress against the Standards is possibly even worse than the data suggest” (p.320). There is little doubt that the situation in many rural, regional, and remote locations is considerably worse than the metro-orientated data indicates.
The Transport Standards require that they be reviewed every five years, but the current version has been in place since 1 May 2011 and only reflects matters raised by the first review that commenced in 2007. All the reviews undertaken so far have lagged behind the timeline set under Part 34 of the Transport Standards. The third review covers the five years to December 2017 but was only completed in November 2021. A project to modernise the Transport Standards has been underway since 2019 (an earlier project that started in 2015 was aborted). Unfortunately, the lax approach to the reviews and keeping the Transport Standards up to date has been indicative of inaction on implementation and compliance shown by successive governments over many years.
Transport accessibility is the responsibility of all three levels of government, but the Transport Standards are a Commonwealth instrument that requires strong federal leadership. In the lead up to the federal election, JFA Purple Orange is calling on all political parties and candidates to commit to reinvigorating the Transport Standards and finally delivering on the 2002 promise of fully accessible public transport in Australia, including by:
- Appointing a federal Transport Minister who will provide strong leadership that makes accessibility a key national priority in the transport portfolio and ends the delays and procrastination that have undermined progress so far
- Getting the Transport Standards back on track by implementing a new comprehensive auditing, reporting, and accountability framework that ensures operators, providers, and governments comply with the requirements and deadlines, as well as tightening the rules regarding the granting of repeated temporary exemptions
- Prioritising significant investment in projects that will address non-compliance by governments with the Transport Standards
- Engaging and utilising the expertise of transport users, including by making it easier to raise issues with operators, providers, and governments, and lodge complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission about barriers experienced
The lack of accessible transport options is a major barrier to inclusion; participation in social, cultural, and economic life; and personal independence for Australians living with disability, as well as for our aging population, parents with prams, and many others. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that people living with disability should have access to transport services “on an equal basis with others.” Governments in Australia are failing to meet this obligation and need to take urgent action to get the Transport Standards back on track.
Will you commit to reinvigorating the Transport Standards; providing strong national leadership that prioritises accessibility; implementing a comprehensive auditing, reporting, and accountability framework; and investing in projects that address non-compliance?
For further information, please contact Robbi Williams, CEO of JFA Purple Orange, on (08) 8373 8333 or email@example.com.