Claims against public transport providers for disability discrimination are increasing whether it is for day to day travel or holiday or recreation purposes, therefore it’s important for providers of premises, infrastructure or conveyances to know what the disability standards and the law requires now and in the near future.
DSAPT or the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport were formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and came into operation on 23 October 2002. The Standards establish minimum accessibility requirements to be met by providers and operators of public transport conveyances, infrastructure and premises. The Standards take into account the range of disability covered by the DDA and apply to most public transport premises, infrastructure and conveyances.
In 2007, Australia signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a global effort to promote the equal and active participation of all people with a disability. The Convention puts the responsibility back on society to ensure that all people must be provided with opportunities to reach their full potential, regardless of their situation or disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992 (Cth) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.
The DDA encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people.
Public transport passenger use areas require a complex application of disability legislation, codes and standards. When DSAPT was developed back in 2002, older standards were in place and incorporated into the transport standards, and these remain referenced today. The issue with this is that it creates a conflict with some of the current provisions when assessing projects; some examples are accessible toilets, stair nosings and access path edge protection, but it is important to note that these projects also require compliance with the Building Code of Australia which references both the old and current standards and where a conflict arises, the older standards are to take precedence (Part H2.1). It is therefore important that public transport operators engage an experienced and accredited access consultant to guide them and provide appropriate advice on how to meet obligations and improve the environment for users with disability.
DSAPT is currently undergoing its third review by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department. It was identified through consultations in the previous review that the objective of DSAPT was not being met and in response to this, the Australian Government developed a best practice guide ‘The Whole Journey: A guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys’ to encourage stakeholders to consider the access needs of the end-users from the moment they commence their journey until they reach their destination. Link here https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/transport/disabilities/whole-journey/index.aspx
Public transport operators have an obligation under the DDA’s public transport standards, otherwise known as DSAPT (Disability Standards Accessible Public Transport Act 2002) to provide an accessible environment for passengers with disabilities. Although the transport standards set a minimum level of compliance for premises, infrastructure and conveyances (ferries, trains, trams, monorails, aircrafts, buses, catamarans etc.) It permits ‘equivalent’ access with direct assistance where compliance is not achievable. While this is understandable in certain circumstances (e.g. operators assisting passengers to board a ferry affected by high or low tides), the main common objective should always be to provide dignified, equitable and independent access for everyone regardless of ability, especially at the design stage when the opportunity to enhance the environment is at its greatest.
In terms of disability discrimination, public transport premises, infrastructure or conveyances are affected by the:
Equal Access has successfully consulted on multiple public transport premises, infrastructure and conveyances projects throughout Australia, including:
Access Audits for premises are complex and involve auditing all accessible related parts of the facility. Typically these include:
A disability action plan enables an organisation to meet its obligations under the DDA. A Disability Action Plan states how an organisation will make changes over a period of time to reduce discrimination and promote equality of people with a disability.
An action plan prepared under the DDA must contain the following (s.61):
DSAPT can be downloaded from the Australian Government Federal Register of Legislation
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