As Shadow Minister for Disabled People, this issue comes up a lot in my work and I am in regular contact with the Shadow Transport team. I was also in the Commons last week to support Charlotte Nichols’ excellent ten minute rule bill.
The right to physical accessibility, which is the foundation of so many economic, social, civil and political rights, is for many people dependent on access to reliable and affordable public transport. It is essential we recognise that the challenges of lived experience for disabled people go beyond medical impairments and we must also consider how we remove societal barriers.
In July the Government finally published its long-awaited National Disability Strategy. Although it promises to “enable disabled people to travel with confidence by addressing staff training, information and the attitudes and behaviours of others”, I am concerned that the Government failed to properly consult with disabled people organisations. In addition, many critical areas such as data collection and adequate funding were not addressed.
The Government has previously acknowledged that many disabled passengers are unaware of their rights to assistance and what steps they can take to enforce those rights. Although it says it is committed to increasing awareness of passenger rights, I know polling by Scope has found that eight out of ten disabled people feel stressed or anxious when they travel. More than half reported they felt like this most or every time they make a journey.
I remain convinced the Government has not tackled one of the biggest challenges with our transport system, which is that the different modes of transport just do not talk to each other and are not joined up. We need a transport system that genuinely connects people. We must also ensure policies are made in partnership with disabled people and that they have dignity and respect at their heart.
Please rest assured that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government on this important issue.