Accessibility - Transportation

Airports, bus stops and railway stations! This week Declan Groeger looks at transport accessibility.

What can I say about travelling when I was younger, much younger, than I am today?

My dad used the car for work and precious little else. We would get the bus to school and we would walk to mass on Sunday and all extracurricular activities required walking. Sundays were different; we usually went for a spin. Mum and Dad decided where and did all the necessary preparations but the excitement was all ours.

Travelling has become commonplace and the world has become so small that travel no longer holds the mystery that it once did. By the way I was 18 years old before I flew anywhere and my grandson Jack was only 3 months old when he boarded his first flight. Times change!

Travelling near and far has become an accepted part of life for 80 - 85% of the population; that is those that don’t labour under the burden of a disability. Travel has added so much to my life but planning is always necessary and the excitement I experienced as a child is long muted. If only ‘Beam me up Scottie” worked in real life!

A disabled person can’t just turn up at an airport....

And expect to be able to board an aircraft. He/She must register as disabled and accept help from airport staff when boarding and disembarking. For my part I gratefully accept such help as without it I would not be able to travel but some aspects of air travel irritate me. Some airports have airbridges but airlines don’t always use them in fact some airlines never use them. Airbridges are so convenient for all travellers not just those with a disability but apparently their use slows down turnaround time for the airlines and airlines are ruled by the mighty dollar and anything that interferes with the ‘bottom line’ is frowned upon. It was only after a number of court cases in 2003/4 that some airlines stopped charging for special assistance. Don’t get me started on the absurdity of the wheelchair accessibility sign on the entrance doors to the toilets.

A disabled person can’t just turn up at a bus stop....

And expect that the next bus to come along will be accessible or have a wheelchair space available; there may already be baby buggy occupying the space and apparently possession is nine tenths of the law. Bus Éireann require 24 hours notice prior to travel on regional and expressway routes and even with the required notice people have still been left stranded. I consider myself very fortunate not to depend on public transport; I’m lucky that I have a car and still drive.

A disabled person can’t just turn up at a railway station...

 And expect to board a train as Iarannród Éireann also requires 24 hours notice prior to travel excluding main-line stations. Trains are inaccessible for lone wheelchair travellers as the ramps are very steep. I have never travelled on the DART but elevators out of order do not seem to be uncommon and if disabled travellers can’t get to the platform they certainly can’t board the train.  I have only travelled on the Lúas a small number of times and never on my own but I did find it accessible with care. 

It is inconceivable that all new buses are not wheelchair accessible. This was recognised by the National Bus & Rail Union (NBRU) at their annual conference recently when it unanimously passed a number of motions calling on Bus Éireann to remedy the situation.

Accessibility is more than getting into a venue; it is also about using the facilities once you are inside but the accessibility of the venue or its’ facilities are of little interest if you cannot get to the venue.

Further reading

Read a recent horror bus story 

Read a recent story on lifts out of action on a dart line

Don't forget to visit Declan's blog