In November, I raised the issue of the daily discrimination being experienced by disabled people because a significant proportion of Ireland’s public transport services facilities and structures are not accessible for people with disabilities.
One in four people with a disability do not use public transport for accessibility reasons. Most rail and bus providers require 24 hours notice if wheelchair users plan to use their service. Lifts frequently out of order, coupled with staff shortages, results in people with disabilities avoiding public transport rather than trying to cope with the numerous difficulties they have to encounter. This has a profound effect on the engagement of people with disabilities in everyday social activities.
Only 56% of Bus Éireann’s coach fleet is deemed wheelchair accessible. Inaccessibility of public transport is notable throughout the country, especially in rural areas. Bus stops, surrounding footpaths, and physical stations are frequently insurmountable, with accessible buses only available on a limited number of routes. The daily reality for many wheelchair users living in villages and towns across Ireland is that they are unable to get on a Bus Éireann or a private coach.
The lack of accessible transport is a major barrier to inclusion within Irish society. I have requested that the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross set out in Seanad Éireann the advances that disabled passengers will experience by this time next year. I also recently raised the issue with Minister Ross of the removal of the accessible bus route from Clonmel to Dublin Airport which was replaced with an inaccessible service.