Tag Archives: Accessibility

Only 3% of public think all UK tourist attractions suitable for wheelchair users

A YouGov poll carried out to mark the 10th anniversary of Trailblazers – Muscular Dystrophy UK’s national network of 800 young disabled people – shows that despite many advances in disability rights, most people’s experiences show there is a long way to achieving full accessibility.

Trailblazers

The survey found that:

  • Only three per cent of UK adults think all tourist attractions provide easy access for wheelchair users
  • Only 11% of UK adults think all Premier League grounds provide easy access for wheelchair users
  • Only 6% of UK adults think all UK railway stations provide easy access for wheelchair users

The advance of disability rights has been reliant on campaigning by organisations such as Trailblazers – and remains a patchwork of successes and work yet to be done. For example, while more railway stations now provide step-free access, half of stations remain inaccessible and assistance often needs to be pre-booked. There remain issues with staffing support, onboard toilets and making vital services like ticket machines accessible across much of the country.

Lauren West, Trailblazers Manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We are so proud of the hard-won results that our Trailblazers have achieved in the last decade, and it’s encouraging that members of the public recognise the difficulties disabled people face when it comes to accessibility. But the headline successes should not leave people under the impression that the UK is now fully accessible.

“Take Premier League stadium access. It’s only after years of work by disability groups like Trailblazers that we are finally seeing clubs providing enough space for wheelchair users. But even that achievement just covers topflight clubs on one measure, and we still hear from disabled fans who have to sit away from friends or families, or even with the opposing team.

“We know it can be complex – the good practice guide on accessible stadiums is 116 pages long. But working with groups like Trailblazers is essential if businesses and organisations want to make sure they are open to everyone. Today we celebrate our achievements but now we want to hear from the next generation of young disabled people to help us tackle the next decade of advancing our rights.”

Trailblazers is a national network of almost 800 young disabled people and their supporters, and is part of Muscular Dystrophy UK. The group campaigns for change, provides guidance, and is an expert in what life is like for young disabled people. Members are passionately committed to challenging the barriers in society that stop us from living full and independent lives. The group launched in 2008, with 50 people at a meeting in London. Since then, it has successfully campaigned on issues such as accessible public transport, airlines, gaming and hate speech. Muscular Dystrophy UK is the charity bringing individuals, families and professionals together to beat muscle-wasting conditions.

Since its launch in 2008, Trailblazers’ achievements include:

  • Lobbying Twitter to update its rules to protect disabled people from hate speech. The social media giant went on to introduce the measures called for by Trailblazers
  •  Launching a report on accessible gaming and trialling Microsoft’s new adaptive controller for XBox
  • Fighting for accessible public transport in two End of the Line reports – published in 2009 and 2016 – which resulted in the government announcing new measures in early 2018 to ensure wheelchair users can access buses.

Trailblazer Connor Colhoun, 21, from Glasgow, said: “I’ve been to theme parks, and although it’s not usually possible to go on the rides, they do cater for wheelchair users. Things are definitely improving for disabled tourists, and accessibility is much better now than it used to be; I think that must be because there is more awareness. I recently went on the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and it was excellent – everything was so accessible.”

2,134 people were surveyed on 4th and 5th July 2018 in the Muscular Dystrophy UK-commissioned survey by YouGov.

Law still not protecting overcharged disabled taxi passengers

A new law to protect disabled taxi passengers from being overcharged still doesn’t apply because most councils haven’t made the right preparations, according to disability activist research.

Taxi image

Only a third of councils in England, Wales and Scotland have created so-called Section 167 lists, which are needed to hold taxi drivers to account if they discriminate against disabled passengers.

A change in the Equality Act enacted in April last year means that taxi drivers now face fines of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra. But this only applies to vehicles listed on Section 167 lists, which councils need to create.

Comprehensive research of 340 councils by disability activist Doug Paulley shows that most haven’t created them yet and 42 have no intention of ever doing so, despite a government-recommended deadline of October 2017.

The research lays bare the complex problems around the law change, with many councils confused as to their obligations. Around one in six councils that reported having a list in place have not met technical requirements, meaning they may not be legally useable.

The complexity has contributed to low awareness of the law change. No-one outside of London has attempted to use the law to hold taxi drivers to account for overcharging, ignoring or otherwise discriminating against disabled taxi passengers, despite the widespread and ongoing issues that Muscular Dystrophy UK hears from its supporters.

Nirav Shah, who has congenital muscular dystrophy and lives in Nottingham, said: “I’m a regular taxi user, but have had more bad experiences than good. Drivers have refused to take me, or have claimed that their ramp doesn’t work. I have also had some drive off and leave me on the pavement, and companies quoting twice what a metered fare would normally be. Disabled people should be able to get a taxi as easily as everyone else, and they certainly shouldn’t be charged more, but sadly this isn’t the case.”

Paulley’s research also shows:

  • 12 councils have no wheelchair-accessible taxis, with a further 109 having fewer than ten;
  • Only a third of councils provide disability awareness training, vital for ensuring taxi drivers know how to safely work with disabled people.

Muscular Dystrophy UK and Doug Paulley are calling for the Department for Transport to make the lists mandatory, arguing that the current system has proven unworkable.

Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, which lobbied for years for the law change, said: “Taxis are often the only way that disabled people can get from A to B when public transport isn’t an option but the new legislation simply isn’t working to help ensure they can do so safely and fairly. Doug’s research robustly demonstrates the impossible situation that many disabled people find themselves in. Passengers, taxi drivers and councils alike are crying out for clearer guidance, and we need to see the taxi lists made mandatory, to make this well-intentioned law workable.”

Doug Paulley carried out the research following a Select Committee report into the Equality Act 2010 on disability. He said: “This new research provides a mixed bag of results: while some councils have made an effort to create a list, many have fallen foul of the complex fine print in the rules, leaving most passengers unable to use the new legislation. Councils alone can’t unpick the confusion. We need to see a stronger lead from the Department for Transport if disabled people are to get the tools they need to challenge overcharging and unsafe practices.”

Research by Muscular Dystrophy UK in 2016 indicated that a quarter of disabled people have been refused service by a taxi driver, purely because they are disabled.

For more information, visit: www.musculardystrophyuk.org.

 

UK Civil Aviation Authority airport accessibility report released

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has published a report which assessed the top 30 UK airports on the quality of assistance they provide to disabled passengers.

Airport photoThe report shows that the number of passengers requesting assistance continues to grow, with assistance requested in over three million journeys in 2016 – a 66% rise since 2010.

The majority of airports rated by the CAA report are providing ‘very good’ or ‘good’ support.  However, four airports, including London Heathrow and Manchester, have been told they must improve after falling under the ‘poor’ rating.

The CAA framework for rating the quality of assistance provided to disabled travellers is the first of its kind in Europe.  It was introduced to ensure there is a consistent and high quality service for disabled passengers across UK airports.  The CAA assesses airports against a number of measures to establish how well they are performing for disabled passengers.  Where airports regularly under-perform, the CAA can take enforcement action to ensure services are improved.

Six airports were rated as ‘very good’ including Birmingham, Glasgow and Humberside airports.  20 were rated as ‘good’  including Belfast International, London Stansted and Edinburgh airports.

Michaela Hollywood, Campaigns Officer for Trailblazers –  Muscular Dystrophy UK’s young disabled campaigners network – said: “Our Up in the Air investigation painted a picture of how many young disabled people find it difficult to use air travel.  Young professionals need to travel for business, while many young people find that travelling to new countries enriches their lives and is a part of their identity.

“Air travel can go smoothly.  However, it is clear that monitoring systems are needed to identify the issues in specific airports and encourage them to make their assistance better for disabled passengers.

“Being able to get from A to B without undue stress and anxiety is important for everyone, and disabled people deserve to experience all the thrills of travelling to new parts of the world by plane.”

To find out more about the report and the MDUK Trailblazers, click here.