Is there a role for Dial A Ride in a modern public transport system?

20130826-140847.jpgOne of the great things about SPECTRUM Centre for Independent Living is that we’re never afraid to address difficult issues and debate current thinking around inclusion and disability equality.

One example of this was a lunchtime discussion about the role of community transport, more specifically Dial A Ride, within the public transport system. Now as we all know, transport is a ‘hot’ issue for Disabled People. I don’t think I have ever been to a forum of Disabled People where the issue hasn’t arisen in one form or another.

At first glance, the Dial A Ride issue seems fairly cut and dry. Here at SPECTRUM , we believe that a fully accessible and inclusive public transport system is one of Disabled People’s 12 basic needs. If this was achieved then there would be no need for Dial A Ride and the world would be a happier place. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Despite decades of protests, lobbying and legalisation, across the UK, Disabled People still cannot access the majority of public transport.

That’s not to say, there hasn’t been improvements and certainly large urban areas such as London and Manchester have seen drastic improvements in accessibility. However in other areas, there has been much slower and piece meal improvements

One of the biggest issues, particularly when it comes to buses, is that no matter how modern and accessible the bus is, most Disabled People are reliant on the attitude of the bus drivers themselves. We have all experienced bus drivers who are reluctant to wait till a Disabled Person has found their seat before pulling off or a wheelchair user left stranded at the bus stop because the ramp is supposedly ‘broken’ or there’s just no room for the wheelchair.

These aren’t isolated cases. If you followed Channel Four News’ No Go Britain campaign last Summer, you will have seen some appalling public transport experiences across the whole transport system by Disabled People. Indeed recently a group of Disabled People took a major bus company to court over their discriminatory treatment. Unfortunately the Disabled People lost their case, but it illustrates the scale of the problem.

So, this brings us back to the issue of Dial A Ride. If the current bus system not fit for purpose, should councils be developing their Dial A Ride schemes to meet the undoubted need?

After a lively debate (and a few cul de sacs explored – it was lunch time after all), the general consensus was still that Dial A Ride schemes are not a long term solution to this problem. They may have a short term role in the interim, but there was a general feeling that Dial A Ride could end up letting the bus companies and the councils off the hook in regard to their equality duties.

Disabled People must continue to lobby for funding to be channeled into the general public transport system to improve accessibility rather than the money being siphoned off into a segregated service that is not only incredibly expensive to run but does nothing to achieve Disabled People’s right to a fully inclusive and accessible public transport system available to all.

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