Today we attended a launch event for a new research report from Transport Focus looking at the disabled user experience on England’s road network. Muscular Dystrophy UK were one of six charities who took part in focus groups to inform the research.
What does the report say?
The research emphasises how driving increases many disabled peoples sense of independence by giving them greater freedom, particularly if public transport is not a viable option. However, the research also identified a number of barriers that disabled people encounter when driving on the roads. These included:
- Fears around being stuck in traffic jams or breaking down
- Difficulty in accessing roadside services and fuel pumps
- A lack of accessible facilities, including Changing Places toilets
- Challenges around parking spaces
- A lack of clear and appropriate signage
How to improve accessibility?
The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the disabled road users experience. These include:
- Information: Highways England should do more to publicise information sources for disabled road users when their vehicle breaks down or when stuck in a traffic jam.
- Signage: Highways England (and service operators) should review signage to determine how it could be improved, including for people with cognitive disabilities.
- Parking: site operators and Highways England should work together to increase the number of spaces for disabled visitors in service areas, and do more to minimise the abuse of disabled parking bays. When refurbishing services, operators should locate disabled toilets as close as possible to the entrance.
- Training: recovery providers should review and improve the disability awareness training given to all their staff. The Department for Transport should also consider whether the number and location of driving instructors trained to teach those with cognitive impairment is currently adequate.
- Petrol: retailers must ensure they are compliant with the Equality Act 2010 and make adjustments to ensure disabled customers are not disadvantaged at petrol pumps.
Partnership with the Department for Transport
Another recommendation focuses on increasing Changing Places toilet provision at service stations on the road network. There are currently just 21 registered Changing Places toilets at service stations across the UK. Current provision is woefully inadequate and is preventing thousands of disabled people and their families from travelling due to fears of where they will be able to find a toilet that meets their needs. Changing Places toilet campaigners have run a number of petitions calling for better provision which has helped put the issue on the Government’s agenda. Now, Transport Focus have added their support by calling for Highways England and the Department for Transport to take action to increase Changing Places toilet provision at service stations.
We are pleased to say that Muscular Dystrophy UK will be working closely with the Department for Transport to allocate £2 million of funding for Changing Places toilets to be installed at motorway service stations across England. The funding was announced as part of the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy earlier this year, which aims to provide equal access to the transport network by 2030.
Speaking about the partnership Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:
“We welcome the Department for Transport’s investment in Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations across England. By building more Changing Places across the road network, disabled people and their families can travel in the knowledge there will be fully accessible toilets they can use safely and with dignity.
Investing in Changing Places toilets means we can tackle the exclusion many disabled people face. We look forward to working in partnership with the Department for Transport and our campaigners in delivering this project.”
We are grateful that years of passionate work by campaigners has led to this funding and we look forward to working with the Department of Transport to improve the accessibility of service stations across England.
Got questions about Changing Places toilets? Email firstname.lastname@example.org