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Sunday, 23 June 2024

Inaccessible transport for disabled people contributing to higher emissions

LEADING disability charity, Transport for All, has released a new study – Are We There Yet? Barriers to Transport for Disabled People in 2023 – showing that 71 per cent of disabled people want to use more sustainable transport, but are prevented from doing so by a lack of accessibility and availability. 

The disabled community represent a quarter of the population or roughly 10 million people in England. However, due to significant barriers to public transport and active travel, many disabled people are significantly more likely to use a car or taxi to get around.

One participant who uses a wheelchair wrote:

“I deeply care about climate justice and desperately want to use greener and more sustainable modes of transport, but these are often inaccessible to me. I can’t cycle, the pavements are atrocious which makes wheeling difficult, the Tube is mostly out of bounds, and buses take forever. It means I am sometimes forced to take taxis.”

Almost a fifth (19 per cent) of respondents said they always or most often chose the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, but many disabled people felt they did not have the luxury of choice when it came to using sustainable modes. Travelling while disabled is already so fraught with barriers, uncertainty and stress, that many disabled people have to prioritise getting from A to B by whatever limited means necessary.

The report paints a stark picture of the barriers disabled people face across every mode of transport and at every stage of the journey:

  • 77 per cent of disabled people said that poor pavement surfaces were a barrier to walking and wheeling

  • 38 per cent of people said poor information about accessibility of stations was a barrier to rail travel

  • 51 per cent of respondents experienced issues with priority seating and spaces when travelling by bus, such as seats being occupied or not clearly defined, or there being too few

  • Only one in four mainline rail stations have step-free access, and 24 per cent of respondents said that lack of step-free access was the single most significant barrier to using metro and light-rail services.

The barriers for disabled people extend well beyond inaccessible infrastructure and include excessive travel costs, unavailable or inaccurate travel information, and having to take longer routes due to a lack of accessible alternatives.

Inaccessible transport for disabled people contributing to higher emissions

Another research participant wrote:

“I am in favour of things being environmentally friendly, but right now any mode of wheelchair-accessible transport would be welcome, even if it were coal or steam-driven.”

Transport for All says that not enough is being done to address the barriers disabled people face to transport, and this failure is not only having a profound impact on disabled people’s lives, but the climate as well.

CEO, Caroline Stickland: said:

“Transport has the highest greenhouse emissions of any sector in the UK economy, and yet conversations around net zero rarely seem to include disabled voices, and how to remove the barriers millions of us face to travelling sustainably.

“It is important to acknowledge that many disabled people will continue to need cars and taxis to travel, even with significant improvements to public infrastructure, and should not be penalised for doing so. However, for a significant portion of our community, making more sustainable journeys is a real possibility if barriers are removed, and one the majority of us want to see realised. It is also clear that robust, structural change is required to remove barriers and make sustainable transport more available, accessible, and convenient for all.”

Transport for All’s ‘Are We There Yet?’ report is available in multiple formats on their website, and was launched in Parliament last week. The group hopes that the report will spur decision-makers to act on their recommendations and encourage more people to join their movement for change.


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