Home Health & Wellness Over a Quarter of Disabled and Elderly in the UK Avoid Public Transport Due to Inaccessibility

Over a Quarter of Disabled and Elderly in the UK Avoid Public Transport Due to Inaccessibility

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In a nation that prides itself on equality and access for all, a shocking new study reveals a hidden crisis on the streets and rail lines of the UK: a vast majority of our disabled and elderly citizens are left stranded by a public transport system that fails to accommodate their needs. A significant 25.5% of these individuals cite inaccessibility as the primary reason for not using public transport, pointing to a critical shortfall in the system’s ability to provide necessary facilities and support for those with special requirements.

As 93% of older individuals and those with disabilities are confronted with severe accessibility, Oak Tree Mobility has conducted research to further examine the obstacles the elderly and disabled individuals face, in addition to exploring the strategies coming into effect to improve accessibility in the UK.

Challenges and impact

Scope UK’s travel fair campaign highlights the challenges that the 14 million disabled people in the UK face when it comes to transport. An overwhelming 30% of people with disabilities reported that access to effective public transport has negatively impacted their independence, putting them at risk of isolation. Research has shown that 25% of disabled people in the UK have reported feelings of loneliness, compared with 6% of non-disabled people. Functional transport is essential to combating this and ensuring that everyone has access to employment, education, and social activities.

Physical barriers

An overwhelming 9 in 10 disabled bus riders have reported difficulties with boarding. According to the Inclusive Transport Report conducted by Innovate UK, top concerns include difficulty getting on and off (52.3%), navigating to and from bus stops (40.8%), and securing adequate space for wheelchairs (38.2%). Other concerns include finding available seating, determining arrival points, manoeuvring around pushchairs that obstruct pathways, and encountering obstacles in wheelchair-accessible areas. The process of commuting to and from work can have significant impacts on individuals with disabilities, leading more disabled people to be self-employed due to flexibility requirements for work schedules.

Financial barriers

Due to the fragmented nature of the public transport system, many people need to complete their journey via alternative means, such as taking a taxi. This can heighten the financial pressure on already vulnerable people. Disabled households already face additional costs that significantly impact their standard of living compared to non-disabled households. Scope’s 2023 report on the extra cost of disability indicates that disabled households need an additional £1,122 per month to maintain the same standard of living as non-disabled households.

How does the UK move forward?

To address these challenges and improve accessibility, transport businesses in the UK are undertaking several initiatives as part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy. This plan aims to transform the lives of disabled people, not just in terms of transport but across various aspects of society, including housing, education, and access to venues. The strategy was developed with input from over 14,000 disabled people, highlighting a thorough approach to tackling accessibility issues:

Awareness and enforcement of passenger rights

Raising awareness of the obligations of transport operators and the processes for raising concerns or complaints. All passengers should be clear on what service they can expect and be confident that reporting non-compliance will lead to enforcement.

Staff training

Ensure that all transport staff receive comprehensive training on disability awareness and how to effectively assist disabled and elderly passengers.

Information and support

Provide clear, accessible information on services and assistance available online and at transport hubs, and implement more intuitive booking systems for assistance and support.

Infrastructure

Ensuring that vehicles, stations, and public spaces are designed, built, and operated so that they are easy to use for all. Upgrade facilities to ensure that all transport modes and stations are fully accessible, including step-free access, reliable lifts, and accessible toilets.

Improving support services, alongside increasing training in disability are integral steps towards developing an inclusive transport environment. By addressing these key areas above, we can improve accessibility in UK transportation and meet the needs of all passengers, allowing for greater social inclusion and equality for everyone in society.

Verity Kick at Oak Tree Mobility comments, “While the UK has made notable strides in improving accessibility, with laws like the Equality Act and initiatives to make public transport more inclusive, significant gaps remain. The efforts to retrofit the London Underground for better access and the introduction of more accessible digital platforms show a commitment to change. Yet, stories from the media – of wheelchair users facing transport barriers and people with sensory impairments struggling with inaccessible information – remind us that progress is uneven. These issues highlight the complexity of fully integrating accessibility into our infrastructure and digital lives. It’s clear that, while we’ve come a long way, the journey towards complete accessibility is ongoing. The challenge now is to build on the successes, learn from the shortcomings, and ensure that accessibility is at the heart of future developments. This balanced approach, recognising both achievements and areas for improvement, is essential for creating a truly inclusive society.”

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