In the opening pages of this report, disabled people describe the barriers they face everyday just to get to work, to the doctor, to the shops - to get anywhere. Clearly and courageously, they show the damaging effects that inaccessible journeys have on their human rights, their life chances and their wellbeing.
The Human Rights Commission decision to hold an Inquiry into the accessibility of public land transport was prompted by the experiences of disabled people who came to the Commission seeking enforcement of their right not to be discriminated against in the provision of public transport.
In choosing to hold an Inquiry, the Commission acknowledged the complexities of the issues, with multiple layers of regulation, planning, funding and provision. The Inquiry process provided an open, transparent, non-adversarial examination of the extent of accessibility and how it might best be increased.
This report demonstrates the benefits of an Inquiry process. Disabled people and their organisations provided us with a wealth of information and with detailed proposals. All three levels of government central, regional and local have cooperated generously. The key private sector participants who own and operate the buses, trains and taxis willingly provided information about policies and practices.
The Inquiry identified four key requirements for the development of accessible public land transport. They are:
- adoption of a common definition of disability
- direct participation of disabled people in planning processes
- mandatory national accessibility design performance standards
- industry wide training in disability awareness and competency.
While some recommendations require significant initial investment, others can be achieved at relatively modest cost, or within existing budgets.
When implemented, the recommendations will provide a range of returns on the investment made. For example, disabled people will have greater access to education and employment.
What has also emerged clearly from the Inquiry evidence is that all the changes that make public land transport more accessible for disabled people also improve access for non-disabled people, and therefore contribute directly to increased use of public transport.
The recommendations resulting from this Inquiry highlight specific actions that are needed to give practical effect to aspects of the New Zealand Disability Strategy and also the New Zealand Transport Strategy, which sets out a vision of an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system by 2010, and identifies improving access and mobility as one of the governments five key objectives for transport. The recommendations fit well within the existing government policy framework. Implementing them will achieve a great deal by 2010, when we propose a review of progress.
Commissioners Robyn Hunt, Judy McGregor and I want to express our immense appreciation to all those who made submissions and contributed through research processes, consultations and workshops. At times, we shared the anger and frustration of disabled people as they recounted daily humiliations and wholly unnecessary barriers. At other times, we felt greatly encouraged at what is being achieved by those agencies and organisations that are already involving disabled people in their planning processes. Overall, we were heartened by the willingness shown by all the key stakeholders to explore the most effective and efficient ways to extend accessibility throughout the public land transport system.
We are also most grateful to Hon. Pete Hodgson, Hon. Paul Swain, his predecessor as Minister of Transport, and Hon. Ruth Dyson, Minister for Disability Issues, for their consistent support and encouragement throughout this Inquiry.
Finally we want to acknowledge the superb commitment of the very small team of Human Rights Commission staff members who have contributed well beyond the requirements of their positions. They are Dr Terry O'Neill, Bruce Coleman, David Peirse, Jessica Ngatai and Sylvia Bell.
The recommendations in this report are directed first to the Government. But they are also directed to regional, city and district councils, and to the owners and operators of buses, trains and taxis. Comprehensive action on the recommendations will require coordination and cooperation among all three levels of the sector, and the participation of disabled people at every level. But there are also changes that each stakeholder can begin to make immediately, because they do not depend on what anyone else does.
The Human Rights Commission is committed to supporting the implementation of this Inquirys recommendations, and to working with all involved to make accessible journeys a reality for disabled people throughout New Zealand.
Dr Judy McGregor
Kaihautu Oritenga Mahi