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THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


TX: 12.01.07 - New Transport Laws

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE


WAITE
Now imagine if you hailed a cab and the driver saw you but drove his empty taxi straight past or as you tried to hop on a bus and buy your ticket the driver ignored what you were trying to say? Well that's often the reality for thousands of disabled people trying to travel by public transport. But now a major loophole in the law is being plugged, meaning that for the first time disabled people and those with long term health conditions have the legal right to be treated fairly on public transport. In a moment we'll hear examples of what the common problems are but first Will Be from the Disability Rights Commission has been telling our disability reporter, Carolyn Atkinson, how wide ranging the new rules are.

BE
This law now covers the use of vehicles, getting on them, travelling on them and getting off them. It covers buses, coaches, trains, taxis and there's new duties for car hire companies and breakdown providers.

ATKINSON
Now this is an extension of what's called part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act, why has it been so slow in taking into account public transport?

BE
When they passed the original Disability Discrimination Act the vast majority of vehicles were inaccessible to disabled people and giving people a right to get on a vehicle which they physically couldn't access was not a lot of use. So they passed part 5, which created regulations which ensure now that all new buses coming into services since 1998 are low floor and have a lot of accessibility features or trains, since 2000, are accessible to disabled people. And therefore we've now got an infrastructure which is in particularly urban parts of the country much more accessible to disabled people.

ATKINSON
Well Frank Adams is in our Leeds studio. Frank as a wheelchair user for the past 25 years what has it been like trying to travel on things like trains, buses and taxis?

ADAMS
In a word horrendous. In fact I drive, sometimes reluctantly, rather than have the hassle.

ATKINSON
So what sort of hassle are you getting?

ADAMS
Well it's a very simple thing is like drivers looking away, as you said in your intro. I travel down to St. Thomas's Hospital and frequently when leaving the hospital on the Waterloo Bridge side the drivers seem to find something extremely interesting on the Marriott Hotel site opposite.

ATKINSON
Now a lot of people would agree with that, they just feel that wheelchair users can be ignored. Have you ever sort of taken it up with the driver, had a word with them and found out what the problem is?

ADAMS
No I'd rather give my money to those who have the courtesy to stop.

ATKINSON
Now you talk about yourself as a wheelchair user, what about other people that - your friends with learning disabilities or people who are blind, what sort of problems are they coming across?

ADAMS
Still you get buses driving straight past a bus stop when somebody is standing there. And the RNIB used to have bus numbers that you could buy and display and again people get driven straight past. People who are hard of hearing, or deaf, find a lot of bus crews very, very ignorant of their needs. And if they're standing there trying to communicate then some bus passengers start getting irritated at that disabled person trying to conduct their normal life.

ATKINSON
And what is your experience with buses, I mean you live in a particularly rural area, so public transport is always a problem in those areas anywhere, but when you're disabled as well what's it like?

ADAMS
For me it's a no go - the streets where I am there's not even a pavement, so the side ramp which is standard on British buses can't be used, so it's just a non-starter.

ATKINSON
Okay Frank Adams thanks very much indeed. Well Will Be is from the Disability Rights Commission, we've heard there not great examples of what's going on so Will what will it actually mean in practice because Frank there talked about drivers driving by pretending they've not seen somebody, bus drivers not sort of listening, if you like, what for people with disabilities will this mean, what changes will happen?

BE
It should mean that the bus driver who doesn't tell a blind person when they've arrived at their stop, despite being requested to do so, that that becomes unlawful; that coach drivers will free up seats at the front for someone with a mental health condition who feels vulnerable; that train operators will ensure that assistance is there to meet someone with a learning difficulty and escort them to perhaps their connecting train; that with regard to car hire simple adaptations, such as a steering knob or basic hand controls, should be provided usually with a period of notice when required; that breakdown operators, the most common problem is if you're a wheelchair user you can't get up into the cab and breakdown operators will now need to provide an alternative way of getting around, usually hiring a wheelchair accessible taxi.

ATKINSON
Now this is all a lot to do with training here and attitude, I mean how long will it take to improve training and improve attitude?

BE
We've been talking to transport providers for the last 18 months or so and we've published a code of practice and we're working on some more detailed guidance to get messages across to transport operators and I know those I've talked to are putting increased training in place. One of the things we thinks important is actually disabled people make more use of the services, as much as they are accessible to them, because the more practice drivers and other staff get at putting the trainee into practice the better they'll get at it.

ATKINSON
And Will, finally, what is still not included in this law?

BE
Sadly airlines and maritime services, particularly ferries, still remain outside the Disability Discrimination Act, we think that's wrong and we continue to press the government to bring it within the scope of the legislation.

ATKINSON
And have we got a timescale on it at the moment?

BE
We haven't, the government's considering the position with regard to both forms of transport but they've indicated, certainly with regard to airlines when they recently reviewed their voluntary code they weren't minded to bring it within the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act. We think there's been plenty of evidence, indeed all the cases that led to the Disability Discrimination Act back in 1995, that voluntary codes of practice don't work, there are always rogue operators who cut corners, who provide poor services for disabled people and we feel it's vital that the government takes the legislative route.

WAITE
That report from Carolyn Atkinson and if you've got any experiences that you'd like to share do contact us in the usual ways, as has Caitlin Morgan, who's e-mailed, even before that item was off air to say that there's - in her area the enormous amounts of money spent on wheelchair accessible buses have been - that are completely impossible to use, you can travel, she says, out of the city centre reasonably enough but the rules say the use of the wheelchair buggy space is on a first come, first served basis and there's always someone with a buggy already on the bus. I've sat at freezing bus stops for up to two hours waiting for an infrequent service with enough space for my wheelchair and having eventually to give up and pay for a taxi.



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