Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport, Darren O’Rourke TD, has called on the government to accelerate the process of making our public transport system accessible for all.
The Meath East TD said:
“We need to ensure that people with disabilities can lead full and active lives within our communities, and having access to accessible, affordable public transport is key to this.
“For years, our transport system left those with a disability behind. While some progress has been made reversing this in recent years, a huge amount of work still needs to be done.
“On many rail services, people with a disability are still forced to give prior notice of their intention to travel, to ensure accessibility arrangements can be put in place, for example.
“They are forced to pre-book, pre-plan and make arrangements that other passengers do not.
“We need to move away from this outdated approach and accelerate universal design to ensure buses, trains, taxis and associated infrastructure is accessible for all.
“Sinn Féin recognises the need to speed up this transition, and in our alternative budget for this year, we allocated €27.5m to improve public transport accessibility for people with disabilities and mobility issues.
“I welcome the recent announcement that the new DART+ fleet will have automatic retractable steps offering the potential for unassisted level access from suitable platforms and larger dedicated wheelchair spaces.
“But at the same time, many rail stations continue to have lifts that are regularly out of service. It’s a persistent source of huge annoyance for people with mobility issues.
“We know, too, that existing schemes, such as the Free Travel Scheme, are prohibitively restrictive.
“For example, the NCBI estimates there are 700 people who are prevented from driving due to their eyesight, but who equally don’t meet the requirements to be registered as blind, and so cannot access the scheme.
“700 extra people is a drop in the ocean who you consider 1,022,001 people are eligible for the scheme already, and it would make a huge difference to them.
“We need the full suite of supports available to empower people and to ensure individuals can travel independently.
“It shouldn’t be an after-thought, it should be built into everything we do, literally and figuratively.”