I don’t think its any secret that I work in Public Transport but also have a vested interest as a disabled person and a transport user. So this post is closer to my work than usual but I must state – this is my opinion.
Since 1985 the Transport Act 1985 stipulated that there would a board dedicated to advising the Department for Transport (or whatever it is called at the time) about the issues being faced by disabled people and the ways to resolve these issues. This board is known as the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee – DiPTAC.
DiPTAC have been hugely instrumental in making disabled peoples lives more independent. Public Transport is a gateway industry – it enables people to access other services. Health, leisure or chore – if you can’t drive or afford a car because all your money gets sucked up by other costs, public transport is essential. Accessible public transport only came about because of the hard work of the panel and the standards they helped set out.
But following the various spending reviews, its been recommended DiPTAC be abolished. I believe this to be wrong. So I’ve been reading the consultation and I’ve got some strong thoughts and fears.
My first fear is that the experience of disabled people is going to be lost. At the moment, DiPTAC is made up of disabled people and professionals. However, what changes are made for one disability can negatively affect another. For example, a lift could mean people who have claustrophobia may be unable to access a building or replacing a receptionist with an intercom could prevent a hearing impaired person from accessing the building unless it had a working loop. On board buses, a wheelchair space and priority seating could mean that someone might have nowhere to sit with their guide dog. Its vital that when making changes, every type of disability is considered and consulted with – and not lip service – proper consultation.
My second fear is that because such experience incurs expenses and costs to bring together and discuss, this will be used as an reason not to use face to face consultation or there could be no more than one meeting with a few people who may be based local to the department. Recently, the Department for Transport were convening a meeting with just a few organisations about what disabled people wanted from public transport in the future. They did not go to consultation as it was another department’s white paper. However, this meant that a lot of voices were not heard and there is a strong risk that this could be the case again in the future on much more serious issues.
My third and final fear is that disabled people will not be made aware of legislative changes properly because there is a lack of pressure from within for the department to ensure they are targeting the right people in the right manner for information, views and consultation. It might be that the department would commit to doing so, but should they fail to properly consult and carry out an Equality Impact Assessment, it is down to the public to take the department to court. In the mean time, any changes carried out in law could have already had a negative affect on disabled people and at worst, could mean that disabled people are finding themselves unable to access public transport.
So, it is vital that you respond to this consultation. I will not tell you how to respond – this is up to you. But I implore you to consider carefully please the needs of not just yourself but those with other disabilities. Share the word. Ask your local council transportation department if they have responded. I will also be responding in a personal capacity and I hope to share my views on here in due course.
The consultation ends in 14 weeks but you should consider your answers now. If you want to discuss it with others, log on to twitter and use the hashtag #DPTAC. But most of all – please tell others.