Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Trailblazers worked with Heidi Allen MP, Chair of the Young Disabled Peron’s APPG, to submit written questions to the Secretary of State for Transport. Trailblazers took this opportunity to ask about plans for improvement of wheelchair users’ experiences on buses, taxis and air travel. We have received answers to three of our questions.
What steps are being taken to ensure that baggage handlers at UK airports have the required training to handle wheelchairs?
In our report Up in the Air we revealed that 6 out of 10 disabled passengers say their wheelchairs have been damaged when travelling with an airline. We were pleased to hear in the answer to this question that:
“[the] Department is considering a new Passenger Charter that will raise standards and enhance services for passengers, including disabled people and those with reduced mobility. This includes increased uptake of disability awareness training programmes for ground handlers…”
With this training we are hopeful that wheelchair users can travel with more confidence that their wheelchair will be properly handled. Trailblazers will continue to monitor the situation on air travel and this possible Passenger Charter.
What recent discussions [has the Secretary of State for Transport] Department has had with bus companies to ensure that the required level of disability awareness training is undertaken by all bus drivers?
In 2016 Trailblazers produced our second End of the Line report in which it was revealed nearly two thirds of survey respondents have experienced problems getting on a bus owing to the attitude or behaviour of the driver or fellow passengers. We have continued to hear of negative experiences from young disabled people and therefore took this opportunity to ask the Secretary of State if he is working with bus companies to improve this.
“Bus and coach operators must ensure that drivers subject to requirement
to complete disability awareness training receive appropriate instruction. As part of the 2018 annual bus statistics survey, we sought data on whether operators were compliant with these new duties, and results will be published on January 30th. We also intend to publish best practice guidance on disability awareness training in the spring.”
We are looking forward to this guidance being published and we will continue to campaign for it to be put into practice. We will continue to ask for Government, transport operators and local authorities to work with groups such as Trailblazers to ensure all front-facing staff have adequate disability awareness training.
What assessment [the Secretary of State] has made of the level of discrimination faced by disabled people when travelling by taxi?
This is a very important issue to many of our Trailblazers – we hear regular stories of young disabled people being overcharged or refused as passengers by taxi drivers. Our End of the Line report showed over a quarter of respondents say they have been refused service by a taxi driver, purely because they are disabled. In the Secretary of State’s answer:
“We intend to commission research to understand more clearly the experience of passengers who have been refused service by taxi and PHV (private hire vehicles) drivers on account of using a wheelchair or assistance dog, and the levers available to Government to help eliminate such unacceptable behaviour.”
While Trailblazers are pleased this is being looked into, we call on the Government to improve accessibility of local transport infrastructure to bring into force section 165 of the Equality Act and implement the recommendations from the Law Commission’s taxi consultation.