Users of wheelchairs, powerchairs, and mobility scooters will be all too familiar with the obstacles they can face as they try to go about their daily lives. Despite legislation to make public transport accessible for everyone, the reality is that using buses, trains, the Tube, trams, and so forth in the UK is not a workable option for thousands of people.

Those disabled people who do make journeys by public transport often have to navigate a hostile infrastructure that can mean their journeys take longer, require more planning and leave them vulnerable to injury or the aggression of other transport users. This can be extremely stressful, and a drain on physical and emotional energy. 

It is not surprising that disabled people make 38 per cent fewer journeys than able-bodied people, according to a new report by the Motability Foundation. THIIS News reports that an investigation by a cross-party government committee has found that barriers to disabled people accessing public transport hinder the economic growth of the country.

Disabled people who could potentially leave the house to work, fulfil their potential and make a valuable contribution to society are prevented from doing so by the obstructive public transport system. This is according to the think-tank Policy Connect. They have launched a charter addressing the issue and call on political leaders to take positive action.

The charter, titled: ‘Closing the transport accessibility gap: Making transport accessible for disabled people’, has been drawn up in conjunction with the Accessible Transport Policy Commission, which is part of the National Centre for Accessible Transport. It was produced in consultation with disabled people, policy makers, and transport professionals. 

Clive Gilbert, Head of Accessible Transport at Policy Connect, commented: “I am delighted to launch our Charter for local and regional elected leaders today. Local government is where many of the key decisions about the future of the transport system are made. Local and regional transport policy makers are crucial actors in our country’s transport system.”

He added: “They are therefore vital partners in our mission to eliminate barriers to transport for disabled people across the UK. We hope councillors and mayors will sign up to the Charter’s four actions and help us close the Transport Accessibility Gap.”

The report calls for a greater inclusion of disabled people when drawing up transport charters, so that the resulting infrastructure is fit for purpose and does not overlook barriers that might be invisible to a non-disabled person. It recommends the appointment of a disabled people’s champion to ensure that proper consultations take place.

Some of the biggest problems include stations with no step-free access, uneven pavements and platforms, obstructive street furniture, inadequate crossings and a lack of tactile signage.