Today, the government announced a National Disability Strategy to build back fairer from COVID-19, which will include major access audits of all UK railway stations and new laws to boost accessibility standards on buses and taxis. As access auditors for almost twenty years, we are excited by the prospect of increased equal access on a national scale. For people with disabilities, taxis, buses and trains are a staple of day-to-day life, and disabled people’s improved confidence in these services is one huge step closer to witnessing a more equal society for all, something which we strive to achieve every day at Direct Access.
The audit is set to include all UK train stations and was originally pledged in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, a policy paper that details plans to identify improvements and highlight existing areas of excellence. The findings of which will be used to form a new public database so people can better plan their journeys.
The Department for Public Transport will also work with Network Rail to introduce tactile paving to platforms as part of a new programme to improve safety. Other plans pledged in this policy paper include the development of a Passenger Assist App to improve communication between customers and rail staff, audible and visual announcements on buses, legislation to protect disabled people from being overcharged on public transport, and a crackdown on pavement parking to strengthen the safety of footpaths for vulnerable pedestrians.
Direct Access has a long history of audits in the public transport sector. Some of our past clients include Virgin Trains, for who we provided access audits for their major intercity stations on the West Coast Mainline as well as introducing the first-ever Quiet Room for autistic travellers on the UK rail network at Crewe, and Changing Places (specialist accessible toilet) facilities at Birmingham International. We have have also provided audits for Runcorn, Lancaster, Rugby, and Penrith railway stations.
Irrespective of the government’s hopeful plans for the future, it is important to recognise that there are still many services and businesses which do not consider the potential disabilities of their clientele. Direct Access can provide award-winning NRAC accredited access audits regardless of your sector, advising on all aspects of accessibility with an in depth knowledge of architecture, building regulations and above all else, a team with unmatched first-hand perspectives of living with a disability.