The Department for Transport (DfT) has set out its Inclusive Transport Strategy (ITS), which aims to improve accessibility for disabled people across the UK's transport network. It is hoped that the measures set out in the strategy will make travel fully accessible and inclusive for disabled passengers by 2030. This strategy was produced following the Accessibility Action Plan (AAP) consultation, which received over 1,000 responses from disabled people and passenger groups. In parallel to the ITS DfT has also published a summary of feedback received to the AAP consultation.
The ITS covers all modes of transport and has five main themes which encompass a wide range of measures to support people with disabilities. However, as well as bus, rail and air use of the private car is also considered, and this includes the strategic road network, Blue Badges, electric vehicles and parking. The ITS recognises that the private car is a vitally important form of transport for disabled people.
Improving physical infrastructure
One of the five themes in the ITS is improving physical infrastructure. The government state that they want to ensure that vehicles, stations and streetscapes are designed, built and operated so that they are easy to use for all. The ITS recognises that having access to sufficient numbers of parking spaces can make all the difference in being able to access employment, education, shopping and leisure opportunities as well as visiting friends and family.
Respondents to the draft AAP noted that disabled people often used cars more than any other mode of transport due to accessibility issues and therefore this should be reflected in the number of disabled parking spaces allocated at car parks and on streets. Parking at railway stations was specially highlighted as being an issue. Although stations must provide the number of disabled parking set out in the Design Standards for Accessible Rail Stations when they are built or renovated, it was felt that there was still insufficient provision. Respondents also made suggestions to improve the parking facilities at port terminal buildings allowing disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility to park closer to port terminals and board ferries more easily.
Private Member's Bill
The government state that they will continue to provide support to the Private Member's Bill introduced into Parliament by Sir Greg Knight that seeks to create an independent code of practice for private parking companies. Should the Bill progress, there will be an opportunity for the government to consider the obligations on private parking companies, in relation to making travel and parking accessible for all. As the recognised consumer representative sitting on the panel discussing this Bill People's Parking would welcome steps to make parking more accessible for all people with disabilities. The Bill has now been passed to the Public Bill Committee.
Respondents to the draft AAP called for the removal of parked cycles causing obstructions in the pedestrian environment. People's Parking has always set out to encourage parking provision in off-street car parks for all cyclists to help address this issue. The ITS states that they will update Local Transport Note 2/08, which sets out the Department's guidance to local authorities on designing safe and inclusive infrastructure for cyclists, to take account of developments in cycling infrastructure since its publication in 2008 and publish a revised version by early 2019. They will also explore the feasibility of amending legislation to recognise the use of cycles as a mobility aid by 2020 in order to increase the number of disabled people cycling.
A frustrating issue for many disabled people is people parking their cars on the pavement. It can cause problems for those in wheelchairs, guide dog owners or those who are partially sighted or blind, and who may be forced into the road to get around cars parked on pavements. There has been a ban on pavement parking in London for more than 40 years and some respondents wanted to see a national policy extending the ban to the rest of the country. Outside London, councils can restrict pavement parking where there is a problem. This allows for localised policies to target areas or streets with narrow pavements. The ITS states that the government will carry out a wider review of pavement parking laws and potential options beyond implementing changes to Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) procedures. They also note that the Scottish Government has consulted on new measures to address pavement parking in Scotland, and will look to learn from the work it has carried out.
Electric vehicle charging
The government has noted the concerns raised by disabled people about the location and access to charging points for electric vehicles. The government want chargepoints to be easy to locate and access for all transport users. Existing legislation means that the provision of chargepoints is covered by the Equality Act 2010. This includes a reasonable adjustments duty that applies to, amongst others, a person or organisation providing services, goods or facilities to the public. People's parking has always advocated a proportion of charging points to be situated in disabled bays to allow for easier access.
Another theme in the ITS was awareness and enforcement of passenger rights. A recurring theme in the draft AAP was around the lack of, or misuse of, disabled parking spaces. There are currently 2.38m Blue Badges held in England (as at 31 March 2017) and there were only 1,131 individuals prosecuted in England in 2016/17 for misuse of a Blue Badge. The majority of these prosecutions (98%) were targeted at a non-badge holder using another person's badge. The government have begun publishing enforcement newsletters aimed at local authorities (i.e. all Blue Badge teams and parking teams) to promote enforcement success stories and good practice, in order to help encourage better enforcement of disabled parking spaces.
In addition to parking issues, disabled people also raised concerns through the draft AAP consultation about the provision of Blue Badges and some called for an expansion of those eligible to apply for a Blue Badge to include those with less visible disabilities. The Department consulted on this earlier in 2018 has recently published its plans to expand Blue Badge eligibility.
It is recognised that for disabled people, the service and assistance provided by staff is vital for a good journey. This is why ensuring that transport staff understand the needs of all disabled people and can provide better assistance is one of the five ITS themes. The ITS states that providing effective training to transport staff is one of the best ways to improve the travelling experience of disabled passengers and it is essential as a way to ensure transport staff are aware of their own legal obligations. The Government wants transport operators to provide all staff (frontline and back-office, including senior managers) with training on disability equality and awareness as well as an understanding of the range of conditions and impairments affecting disabled people, and to involve disabled people in the provision of that training.
Another theme in the ITS is improving information with the aim that transport operators provide travel information in formats that all passengers can easily access and understand, before and during a journey. People's Parking is a great way to inform customers what facilities they can expect in a car park before they arrive.
The final theme of the ITS is the future of inclusive mobility. This is about ensuring that technological advances and new business models provide opportunities for all, and that disabled people are involved from the outset in their design.
People's Parking welcomes this ITS as we believe it will help drive up standards in the parking industry. We hope that parking operators and their staff get behind all the changes required to deliver the strategy across their portfolios.
Posted on 01 Aug 2018 at 15:41:30