The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (2002) (Transport Standards) have a five-year schedule for review, with the most recent review having been undertaken in 2012 and a new one scheduled to commence sometime this year.
These are of course the standards related to transport systems including aircraft, buses and coaches, ferries, taxis, trains, trams, light rail, motor rail, rack railways, and other rolling stock, and are formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act (1992).
The review, which began in 2012, recognised a number of areas where improvements could be made, with one of the recommendations being to develop accessibility guidelines for a ‘whole-of-journey’ approach to public transport planning.
The resulting guideline which was recently published in draft form by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is The Whole Journey: a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys.
Comments were sought with regard to the guideline, the period for which has since closed. The guideline is therefore subject to change further the Department’s assessment and implementation of any feedback gained.
The guide states that it has been "designed to encourage policy makers, planners, designers, builders, certifiers and operators to think beyond compliance and the physical and governance boundaries of services and infrastructure, and to focus instead on people’s accessibility needs across their whole journey."
The report acknowledges that Australians reporting a disability represent 18.3 per cent of the population, and that numerous previous reports and studies continually identify that people with a disability are more likely to experience social and economic disadvantage. Access to public transport is identified as a key factor in creating opportunities for personal empowerment, social inclusion and participation. A key factor in reducing dependence on families, friends and taxi services, and to participate actively and independently in the community be it for recreation, training or employment.
In addressing the identified gaps in the Whole Journey, the guide identifies eight key stages and elaborates on strategies, solutions, technologies and opportunities as they relate to each stage. The points below are offered as summary of some of the items and solutions raised.
- Providing additional accessibility information in journey planning tools such as journey planning apps (such as including accessibility status of stops such as gradients, presence of lifts, locations of ramps and accessible sanitary facilities, and so on)
- Providing information in a range of formats
- Providing training to consumers in the user of journey planning tools and apps
- Increased consistency within the public transport system
- Accessible website content
- Increased user input in the development of journey planning tools.
Journey start and end
- Information about accessing stops and stations such as surrounding topography, streetscape features as well as the quality and continuity of paths
- Maintenance of pathway accessibility and quality
- Training in the reduction of obstructions (such as placement of café seating and signage, removal of low hanging branches, and so on)
- Precinct planning and coordination (such as transport node location and connectivity to key destinations, inclusion of clear wayfinding information, and so on).
Public transport stop/station
- Consistency of design
- Amenity considerations such as provision of shelter, accessible drinking fountains and sanitary facilities
- Real time information regarding arrivals in a variety of formats (such as visual, audio and technology such as beacons sending push messages to smart devices)
- Clear hailing points at infrastructure such as taxi ranks, and training of drivers to be more vigilant in stopping when not hailed (for instance, for patrons with vision impairment)
- Accessible drop off and pick up points at stations which may include shelter, seating compliant foot paths and kerb ramps as well as tactile and visual cues
- Considering the impact of advertising on wayfinding and the general legibility of the built environment
- Acknowledging that electronic ticketing systems can be challenging for many people and providing training or alternative forms of ticketing where necessary.
Public transport service
- Where possible through planning and design, eliminate the need for assistance such as by providing ramps to enter a service
- Provide audible announcements within vehicles and at interchanges during a journey
- Vehicle fleet consistency inclusive of features such as entry systems, exit buttons and location of allocated spaces
- Consistency of vehicle colours, icons and numbering systems to act as reliable identifiers
- Driver and staff training and awareness
- Considering the impact of advertising on accessibility.
- Coordination of different operators such as wait times between services as well as the accessibility and clarity of the interchange
- Wayfinding which may include signage, technologies, tactile ground surface indicators, placement of landmarks among many other considerations
- Highlighting boarding locations with auditory, visual and touch based systems, as well as clear displays and trained staff on approaching services
- Lift and ramp availability as well as suitable strategies to assist with locating these
- The announcement of changes in services in both audio and visual formats
- Real time information
- Consideration of the acoustic environment inclusive of speaker quality and building acoustics affecting legibility of announcements
- The availability of accessible sanitary facilities as well as seating and rest points.
Return journey planning
- Pairing stops where possible (such as bus stops being placed on opposite sides of a road with safe crossing points, pedestrian lights, and so on)
- Journey planning tools (mentioned previously above)
- Real time information (mentioned previously above)
- Customer service (mentioned previously above).
Disruption to business-as-usual
- Disruption management planning and implementation of strategies and processes to address situation such as a lift not working or an emergency situation
- Communication in multiple formats for any disruptions and ensuring that any replacement services provide an equivalent level of access to the cancelled service (such as a level entry vehicle)
- Help/information points with information in multiple formats and suitably trained staff
- Real time information
- Management plans addressing events of disruption of lift or other vertical transportation means.
- Amenity beyond that included in the Transport Standards (such as accessible seating, shelter, wayfinding, drinking fountains, charging points for wheelchairs, Changing Places facilities, and so on)
- Precinct planning
- Customer service staff
- Opportunity to provide feedback to assist in improving services
- Accessible sanitary facility availability (management of MLAK keys), cleaning, lighting and security.
The guideline can be downloaded here