Tag Archives: accessibility

Bus open data: a data revolution but an accessibility fail

Ministers are completing the legal groundwork for the Bus Open Data Service (BODS), paving the way for new powers by the end of the year to ensure operators disclose data on fares, timetables and locations. Lord Holmes objects to the fact that accessibility data will not also be included.

The regulations would provide new legislation to require bus operators of local bus services across England, but outside London, to openly publish data electronically about their services through legally mandated data standards.

The move is designed to boost passenger numbers and support travel app development and follows Transport for London’s successful open data strategy and Transport for the West Midlands’s investment in providing a single data source for apps and journey planners across the region.

In London it is estimated that Citymapper and the Bus Times app had together delivered economic benefits of between £90m and £130m a year from travel time savings.

It has been over a year since the Bus Services Act was in the Lords at which time Lord Holmes raised the fact that there was no requirement for operators to provide accessibility data for vehicles or bus stops with ministers.

Despite these concerns, the Department for Transport failed to make such provision in the regulations and has even refused to provide a timeline for the when operators might be obliged to provide this data. Lord Holmes said:

‘It’s an extraordinary position that we find ourselves in. Over a year after we were told it’s not the right time to do this, again we see accessibility treated as a nice-to-have option or even an irritant rather than an essential element and an economic driver.

‘Everyone benefits from this having this. It is not an inordinate cost and burden. It’s not seen as an imperative for all concerned.

‘This information has significant economic and psychological benefits, it will help with rebuilding the economy and rebuilding communities by helping social ills such as isolation. There is nothing that is not positive and inclusive in this.’

The DfT has always maintained that requiring the disability data was too much of a burden for operators. However, this argument was dismissed by Lord Holmes.

‘This is just a deeply disappointing and avoidable mistake. This is not the hard stuff. The data is known. The specification for every vehicle on the road is known and it can be applied to the routes. It should have been seen as a positive step for all concerned.’

Bus Open Data: A data revolution but an accessibility fail, Transport Network, 8 July 2020

Bus accessibility fail is open to legal challenge, peer warns, Transport Network, 27 July 2020

Disability taxi access to Bank Junction is not a luxury but a necessity, Taxi Point, 3 July

Chris welcomes Women and Equalities Committee Report

Today (25th April 2017) the House of Commons Select Committee published their report and findings into their enquiry into Disability and the Built Environment including housing and shared space schemes in the public realm. Chris welcomed the report’s recommendations saying:

“I’m grateful that the Committee has recognised the importance of this issue and consulted so widely with stakeholders and disabled people as well as disability groups. The impact on people’s lives when public spaces are not accessible is devastating. Inclusive design must be the golden thread that runs through all new buildings and works in the public realm.

 I’m also delighted that the committee agree with my recommendation that a moratorium on shared space schemes is necessary. Local authorities require clarity in this space and the exclusion of people from their communities and potential waste of public money must end.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Strategic leadership The Government has a range of levers that can be used to achieve more accessible built environments, but is not using them well enough. Greater co-ordination and leadership is needed to make this framework effective, and to make it clear that inclusive design is a statutory requirement, not just a ‘nice to do’.
  • Designing for equality The Government should make it easier for local planning authorities to follow this lead through revision and clarification of national planning policy and guidance. Local plans should not be found sound without evidence that they address access for disabled people in terms of housing, public spaces and the wider built environment; to support this, the Equality and Human Rights Commission should investigate the Planning Inspectorate’s compliance with the Equality Act. Planning consent should only be given where there is evidence that a proposal makes sufficient provision for accessibility.
  • Housing More ambition is needed in the standards the Government sets for the homes that the country desperately needs. Housing standards need to be future-proofed and to produce meaningful choice in housing, not just to respond to immediate local need. The Government should raise the mandatory minimum to Category 2, the equivalent of the former Lifetime Homes standard, and apply it to all new homes – including the conversion of buildings such as warehouses or former mills into homes.
  • Public buildings and places Much more can be done to make the public realm and public buildings more accessible: through building accessible workplaces, and incentivising employers to improve existing ones; by updating the regulations for new buildings and amending the Licensing Act 2003. Greater provision of Changing Places toilets should be a specific priority: such facilities should be required in all large building developments that are open to the public.
  • Shared Spaces Shared spaces schemes are a source of concern to many disabled people across the country, particularly features such as the removal of controlled crossings and kerbs and inconsistency in the design of schemes from place to place. The report recommends that the Government halt the use is such schemes pending the urgent replacement of the 2011 guidance on shared spaces, ensure that the new guidance is developed with the involvement of disabled people – and that it is followed in practice.

Read the full report here.

Read Chris’s comment piece for Transport Network here

Launch of Parliamentary group on Assistive Technology

Chris in front of ornate fireplace with microphone and lectern.
Chris speaking at the launch event in Speakers House

Chris is delighted to be Co-Chair of a new All Party Parliamentary Group on assistive technology.

The group aims to disseminate knowledge, generate debate and facilitate engagement and a greater understanding of assistive technology amongst members of parliament. The group is supported by a number of organizations ranging from academic institutions to manufacturers of assistive technology and disability charities.

On the day of the launch a group of key stakeholders met to discuss aims and objectives. One key issue raised was the unacceptably high disability employment gap (40% of disabled people are unemployed compared to 5% of non-disabled population) and the role assistive technology can play in providing solutions. Questions were also raised over what was perceived as limited dialogue between the industry and government, and departments with government, it is hoped that this group will help address this communication and understanding gap and lead to far greater access to assistive technology for far more people.

The group had invited Hannah Rose to share her experiences of using assistive technology after she was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of fifteen. Thanks to various products including mobility aids, environmental controls (allowing her to turn off the lights and switch TV channel independently) and drag and dictate software (allowing her to use a computer) she enjoys a significant degree of autonomy and loves her job at Cheshire Police HQ – she jokes about how difficult it was to convince officers that she had found a job when she was trying to sign off incapacity benefits.

Access to employment is important but assistive technology is not only about jobs. It is about enabling people in a far broader sense, to live independent and fulfilling lives. It is about finding and making available the tools that allow people to overcome barriers and Chris relishes the challenge of  working with the group to make sure that happens.