Will transport be more accessible post-pandemic?
18 May 2021
I am disabled and I find getting on and off buses and trains quite difficult without assistance. I do have a mobility scooter but it is not allowed on public transport, buses or trains, so I am still not able to travel out of my own area."
This is the account of one disabled person on how easy it is to use public transport in their area. We know that for many disabled people, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new barriers in addition to those they face in ‘normal’ times – whether that be concerns about the virus itself or about the safety measures put in place to protect people. Disabled respondents in our Travel during Covid-19 survey have told us they are less likely to use public transport in future as much as they did before the pandemic.
This raises a series of questions. How have transport operators made provision for their disabled customers during the pandemic? What lessons have been learnt as a result? And how can operators improve the accessibility of services going forward to ensure things are better than they were?
We invited a panel of transport and accessibility experts to discuss these important questions at our recent webinar Accessible transport: unlocking a better normal. Chris Heaton-Harris MP, minister of state for transport, gave a keynote address and took questions from our audience. You can watch the full recording here.
Among the topics debated were issues around face covering exemptions and ‘peer policing’, better consultation with disabled people on service design and more comprehensive accessibility and inclusion training for all transport staff.
We also heard from disabled people about their views on using public transport during the pandemic and beyond. Watch the clip below to hear some of what they had to say.
What next? In the next few weeks, we will publish research on accessible transport during and prior to the pandemic. This follows our initial findings, which show that there are marked differences between the experiences of disabled and non-disabled people.
We will also be publishing a report on Highways England’s progress in implementing the recommendations we made to improve things for disabled road users. In addition, we will be feeding into the government review of social distancing and face coverings to ensure that the voices of all transport users are heard.
We’ll continue to press the transport industry to take all the necessary steps to rebuild passenger confidence. This means ensuring it listens to and acts on feedback from disabled people, including involving them in service design.