Councillor opinions: Public Transport access for people with disabilities

by Dublin Gazette
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As part of our look into how Dubliners feel about public transport access for people with disabilities in the city, Dublin Gazette contacted current Dublin City Councillors and candidates for local election in the Dublin City electoral areas for their opinions.

Here are the councillors and candidates that responded to us, and their thoughts on public transport access across the capital….

Dermot Lacey (Labour), Pembroke: “Access for all to basic Public Transport should be an absolute priority.

Dermot Lacey

In my view there can be no acceptance for this simple issue not being resolved. we can all accept occasional breakdowns but the regularity of this indicates a lack of priority and needs to be addressed.

The issue also once again highlights why we need an accountable Dublin Transportation Authority and not the largely unaccountable National Transport Authority.”

Michéal Kelliher (Independents4Change), Cabra-Glasnevin: “Transport poverty and accessibility are social and environmental issues. More than one in four persons with disabilities does not use public transport due to accessibility reasons.

“I will push for a substantial increase in investment for public transport including Dublin Bus, and make them free to use for everyone. There are currently 114 free public transport systems around the world, mostly in Europe, and if we are genuine about tackling climate change and taking cars off the road, this is an essential solution.

“I will also push for public transport that can take in multiple wheelchair users and buggies. It’s crazy that buses can’t take in more than one. I have seen buses in Vancouver, Canada that can accommodate more because they have foldable seats plus they are run on electricity. Why not have something like that here in Dublin?

Michéal Kelliher

“It’s shameful that Dublin Bus put up advertisements last year telling young parents to ‘buggies up’ and tried to encourage our society to attack them for not making space for wheelchair users. They were also considering fining parents for not folding up buggies. The responsibility should fall on Dublin Bus and the government to invest in the right kind of buses that can take in multiple wheelchair users and buggies.

“Broken lifts are unfortunately common and I can’t believe that planners and civil engineers continue to use lifts when there are more durable solutions like ramps. It’s also unfair on wheelchair users to be forced to give train companies 4 hours notice before they can get on trains. The trains and stations badly need to be updated so wheelchair users can get on without having to give any notice.

“For Deaf people, transport companies need to stop using solely telecoms when announcing any updates and changes in transport services. I am aware of a good number of times where Deaf people missed their trips because of this.

“The implementation of the UNCRPD (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) is so slow, and the government didn’t ratify the much needed Optional Protocols, which would give us, people with disabilities, additional legislation strength to make complaints and potentially sue the government for failing to provide full access for us. To empower us, the government needs to ratify the Optional Protocols and to speed up the implementation of the UNCRPD.”

Ray McHugh

Ray McHugh (Sinn Fein), Kimmage-Rathmines:“It is my opinion that people with disability no Matter minor or serious should be catered for in all transport situation.

“As a people we need to plan and in planning give priority to our disabled. As a tourist destination, we need also to be wheel chair friendly to visitors and community,we should make life easy to get around not difficult.

I believe going forward  this has to be a priority in planning.”

Janice Boylan (Sinn Fein), North Inner City: “Of course it’s a problem when access lifts aren’t working properly [at transport stations]. Anyone who doesn’t think this is an issue really needs to reevaluate.

Janice Boylan

“Public transport is for the public to use all of the public. Wheelchair users, parents with Prams and senior citizens have the right to be able to easily access public transport.

“I understand machines break down I get that but when they aren’t serviced correctly they break more frequently. When they are broken everything should be done to repair them expediently, resolving the issues as quickly as possible and making sure they are serviced properly to avoid such frequent breakdowns.

“We need to avoid the situation where anyone in our community would have accessibility issues to our public transport system.”

Deirdre Heney (Fianna Fail), Clontarf:Equality needs to apply across the board, and that includes services for vulnerable commuters who require assistance to gain access to public transport.  We must at all times, be sensitive of the needs of less able commuters as well as the able bodied.  

Deirdre Heney

“A caring society is an equal society and it is unacceptable in this day and age, that some members of society are being denied access to public transport. 

All state agencies must provide access to LUAS, DART and bus transport is available to vulnerable commuters by making every effort to ensure that supports such as station lifts are monitored on a continuing basis in order that they are maintained in working order.”

Ciaran Cuffe (Green Party), North Inner City: “We must do more to provide access for all on public transport services.

Ciaran Cuffe

It is unacceptable that lifts are repeatedly out of commission at DART Stations, and that buses are leaving passengers behind as they don’t have enough space for wheelchairs.

“The National Transport Authority needs to ensure that people with disabilities are catered for on all public transport services. I am hearing reports that some buses don’t have enough space for larger wheelchairs and this needs to be addressed by the NTA in their licensing process.”

Andrew Keegan (People Before Profit), Ballymun-Finglas: “Discrimination has to stop and investment is needed and proper staffing levels will resolve the discrimination along with consultation with all users including disability groups such as wheel chair users. There has to be accountability on this issue of discrimination.

“Instead of cutting public transport, People Before Profit would put an emphasis on improving availability and accessibility of public transport. We view transport infrastructure as something that should exist for the public good and not for private profit.

Andrew Keegan

“It is impossible to measure the enormous benefit to society – both economically and socially – that a properly funded and managed transport system can bring. For this reason public transport needs to be preserved and maintained regardless of whether it is loss-making or not.

“I would not be surprised that in the very near future that disabilities groups will get together and file a class action on this government due to the discrimination to this groups.”

Michael O’Brien (Solidarity), Donaghmede: “I’m aware of the fact that the Oireachtas Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport last year devoted a number of days to discussing the issue of accessibility on public transport.

Michael O’Brien

But the daily occurrence of failing lift systems across the Dart and rail network show that all that discussion was window dressing.

“Added to that is Irish Rail’s decision to carry on with their programme of withdrawing staff totally from more stations leaving only 13 staffed on the DART network.

This has been opposed by many from the perspective of safety and security but also there is an accessibility concern about not having staff with ramps on hand if commuters with accessibility needs have to make unscheduled journeys.”

Ruairi McGinley (Independent), Kimmage-Rathmines:25% of people with Disabilities do not use public Transport due to lack of accessibility.

Ruairi McGinley

“A key challenge is accessibility of all Public Transport Websites and Apps, in addition to operational issues. If there was a will there would be a way, and operational issues would not happen.

“All the signs are that 12 months after adopting the UN Convention we will not be in compliance which demands a new effort from Public Transport providers to raise their standards.”

Terence Flanagan (Fianna Fail), Donaghmede: “The lift at Howth Junction is constantly broken. Lifts not working and having to give prior notice for a wheelchair user to take a train is unacceptable.

Terence Flanagah

“This is a real issue I constantly raise with Irish Rail and hope that solutions can be found in the short term but particularly when new carriages are brought on stream, they need to have  platforms for wheelchairs to gain easy access.”

Tom Brabazon (Fianna Fail), Donaghmede: “Yes I agree that those less able are currently victimised on the basis of their disability eg at Kilbarrack Dart Station and other stations wheelchair users have to ring ahead to the station 24 hours ahead of their planned trips to get the bridging equipment out.

Tom Brabazon

This is direct and negative discrimination when compared to an able bodies passenger. This is illegal and contrary to the Equal Status Acts and it is unacceptable that a State entity would continue to be in breach of the legislation.

“In regard to unmanned stations this creates a scenario where people feel vulnerable and unsafe and also allows those that would vandalise the stations and equipment to the detriment of both abled bodied and less abled people.”

Micheal Mac Donncha (Sinn Fein), Donaghmede: “Access for people with disabilities to public transport is a basic right but it is not being vindicated. I have raised repeatedly with Iarnród Éireann the need for proper access for disabled people on the DART.

Micheal Mac Donncha

Lifts are frequently out of action and the problem of access has been made worse by the company’s policy of removing staff from stations, leaving them unstaffed, ghost stations.

“This means that staff members have to travel on the DART from staffed stations to unstaffed stations to assist people in wheelchairs with ramps. The company needs to be developing automatic ramps so that people in wheelchairs can get on and off the train without staff assistance.”

Catherine Stocker (Social Democrats), Clontarf: “Public transport accessibility is a fundamental equality issue for persons with disabilities and is, therefore, an absolute must for our society. Not being able to use public transport or experiencing undue difficulty in doing so, can lead to isolation and exclusion, can be a barrier to participating in the workforce and society more broadly and is unacceptable in a modern inclusive society.

“I am appalled by accounts of passengers unable to access services due to out of order lifts and equally angered by stories of passengers who have arranged assistance at a given station or stop only to find they are greeted with no help. In my own local area the lift in Clontarf DART station is frequently out of order.

Catherine Stocker

“We must prioritise accessibility across our public transport services ensuring that assistance is available where necessary without prior booking; ramps, lifts and emergency call buttons are available and functional in all stations and information is available in accessible formats – visual, audio and braille.

“I welcome the allocation in budget 2018 of a four year financial commitment to the NTA for retrofitting for accessibility but would call upon the NTA to prioritise accessibility in its decision making and upon the government to ensure there is sufficient ongoing funding to do so. Accessibility investment cannot be reliant upon commercial drivers.”

Imran Khurshid

Imran Kurshid (Fianna Fail), North Inner City: “I think [the lack of access] is indicative of a government out of touch with the basic needs of running the country, an equal country for all.

They are more concerned with flashy new projects that get in the papers than keeping services such as these lifts well maintained for those in need.”

Shane Folan

Shane Folan (Labour), Donaghmede: “Accessing public transport is an absolute must in a modern city, we can’t have a system that only serves a fraction of the population. We see it in the DART stations in my ward, Clongriffin, Howth Junction/Donaghmede, Kilbarrack, and Raheny, that lifts are often out of order, or the steps are too slippy for some of the more elderly residents and it’s completely unfair.

“There’s a workers rights issue at play here too. If disabled workers are consistently late because of perpetually broken lifts, they could potentially be disciplined at work or even worse, for something that is completely not their fault.”

Sarah Lipsett (Independent), Kimmage-Rathmines: “I am a huge supporter of Spinal Injuries Ireland and fundraise for them every year.

Sarah Lipsett

“I have friends in wheelchairs and go out with them on occasion and see first hand the issues they face.  It can be humiliating being carried up stairs if there is no lift and it out of service.

“We must provide full services as a matter of law. And if there was a number to call when the service was broken or a direct point of contact for wheelchair users so these services can be repaired.

“The local council must ensure ramps are in place.. wheelchair access is provided and lifts are in working order. Buses must also cater to wheelchairs and make it a priority.”

Declan Meenagh (Labour), Cabra-Glasnevin: “As one of the few candidates with a disability and perhaps the only legally blind candidate in Dublin, I have a different perspective to offer on public transport accessibility.

“Within the last week, I have had two experiences of transport inaccessibility.

“I work in town and need to get the Luas home. only every second Luas goes to Broombridge, the other turns at Parnell. Because I’m visually impaired I can’t figure out which tram is which so have to ask people, sometimes the people on the tram don’t know where it’s going so it can be difficult.

“There should be an announcement as soon as the doors opens at every stop saying where the tram is going so I can get on the right tram independently. I’ve also had the experience of getting a Maynooth train where the announcements were turned off so it was difficult to figure out which stop I was at.

Declan Meenagh

“Last year I was getting the DART to a job interview and the announcements were so quiet I nearly missed my stop. It was stressful enough without having to worry about being late because of transport inaccessibility.

“I know in Phibsborough Luas stop the lifts break down sometimes, and as this stop has a lot of steps, so this is a big problem for people with disabilities.

“For wheelchair users, there are a lot of issues accessing Irish Rail. It is not good enough to have to give 24 hour notice to access a train. The new scheme reduces the wait to 4 hours, but that is also not good enough. People’s lives are complicated, and not always in increments of 4 hours. If you are late, you risk being left without access to a train. This makes getting to work or hospital difficult. It’s another barrier people have to face. Everyone else can just show up and get on a train, why should it be any different for people with disabilities?

“There is a serious issue on Dublin Bus where people with buggies refuse to fold them up so a wheel chair user can get on the bus. This is completely unacceptable. We have invested in buses and kerbs to allow wheelchair users to access the bus, there is no reason why they should be left on the side of the road.

“As a bus user with a disability I’m really worried about the bus connects proposals. I find it difficult to change buses or to manage a stop with a lot of buses lining up. If there are 3 buses and the third in the line opens it doors I may not hear it so risk being left behind. I am also worried about cycle lanes, an example of this is in the attached video.

“Accessible public transport is really important to people with disabilities. 24% of people who have a disability did not have access to a car or van compared to 12% of the general population. The failure to make public transport accessible means that only 22% of people who have a disability are in work. This needs to change. We need public representatives with disabilities to fight for an accessible public transport system for Dublin.”

Danny Byrne (Fine Gael), South East Inner City: “As a prospective councillor, I think it is wholly unacceptable that those disabled or less mobile should find it difficult to access public transport.

Danny Byrne

“It seems to occur because a bus doesn’t have the necessary equipment or it isn’t working or in the case of Luas or railway, the lifts at the few stations that have them are not working. I suspect in some cases lifts are not working due to inconsiderate behaviour by a minority, but that is no excuse for not carrying out repairs promptly. I should say however that none of these transport related  issues are within the control of councillors.

“What we are able to influence is the interaction of City Council with the disabled or less mobile, particularly access at pavements and street crossings and access to all of its buildings. Further council tenants with mobility issues should be relocated to similar premises more efficiently than is currently the case. It would be my intent to hold council officials to account for these issues, particularly where they are readily capable of being addressed.”

Michael O’Sullivan (Labour), Ballyfermot-Drimnagh: “Disability issues are important to me and when I was on the council I worked very closely with a wonderful group called D12DMAP.

“Funding for the group disappeared and they had to fold up. The Council and others need to support people with disabilities coming together to lead their own campaigns at a local level.

“In relation to bus travel I’ve a real concern that driving style and bus design means that buses often pitch and roll to an extent that makes it difficult even for able bodied people to keep their balance and coming downstairs as the bus pulls up to a stop often needs all the strength and dexterity of a slalom skier to keep from falling!

Michael O’Sullivan

“Some years ago there was an attempt to develop a Gold Star standard for disability integration at local authority level. I tried to promote this at local area level when I was councillor for the then LEA of Crumlin-Kimmage, and would like to see it adopted with some enhancements by Dublin City Council. 

“Finally probably the most immediate issue every day for people with mobility issues here locally is restricted access on foothpaths due to bad parking, or poor surfaces , and in recent times this has been made far worse by the amount of badly done temporary repairs done after Irish Water work. A neighbour of mine had her motorised wheelchair damaged by such work which is completely unacceptable and completely unnecessary.”

Caroline Conroy (Green Party), Dublin North-West: “I believe firmly in the need to develop our public transport in Dublin and nationally to ensure that people with disabilities are able to travel freely. 

Caroline Conroy

“The Green Party advocates a significant investment to ensure that high standards apply, in keeping with our overall commitment to people with disabilities and their rights to public services. 

 The reports of difficulties encountered by people with disabilities… are symptoms of a system that was not sufficiently designed with the principle of ‘access for all’ in mind. 

“I strongly endorse the Green Party’s position on public transport for people with disabilities.”

Mary Callaghan

Mary Callaghan (Social Democrats), Ballymun-Finglas: “The Social Democrats are committed to stronger and fairer communities. We believe clear commitments to people with disabilities should be embedded in council strategies and plans, and, if elected, we will lead the charge on this.”
“On a practical level, the council needs to focus on issues such as accessible playgrounds, ensuring there is enough housing and parking for people with disabilities, designing streetscapes so that people with disabilities are not hindered by parked cars, bins, street lights and sign posts, and other ways to make it easier for people with disabilities to fully participate in their local community.

“Inclusivity should be at the forefront of all that councils do and that includes looking after the needs of people with disabilities who make up 13.5 per cent of our population.”

Sarah Durcan (Social Democrats), Dublin South East Inner City: “We need more inclusive design in this city, but also proper maintenance that ensures everyone can move with equal ease and autonomy through the city.

“The repeated lack of urgent response from Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Transdev (the Luas operator), and ultimately the NTA – who has responsibility to ensure access – shows how remote they are from their customers.

Failures like lifts and escalators being out of service show how it is essential that transport services in Dublin should be under the remit of a Dublin specific authority, such as TFL in London or SL in Stockholm, that is also answerable to public representatives for performance.

Sarah Durcan

“At the moment, everything is too remote. If Dublin is to function as a real city, we need an agency such as this to ensure that accessibility isn’t simply an afterthought, but at the centre of how public transport is understood, designed and managed.

“As a SocDems candidate for Dublin South East Inner City, I support the Disability Federation of Irelands #LE19 manifesto to make sure that people with disabilities can access and use local services.”

Niamh McDonald (Independent Left), Donaghmede:Public transport maybe the only form of transport for many people with disabilities, it is essential that making it accessible for all become a priority not an after thought.

“I was speaking to a constituent in Kilbarrack only last Monday, he is a wheelchair user and he complained that he has to give  notice to the Dart Station before he can access the train, to ensure someone will be there to assist him into the train. Also he is relying that someone is also at his destination to help him off and the same for his journey home.

“He told me has often had to sit in the Dart all the way to Bray and come back to Kilbarrack as no one was at his wanted destination to help him off.

Niamh McDonald

“Public transport should and needs to be totally accessible, it is not good enough that lifts in stations are consistently breaking down and no body is there to assist people unless requested in advance.

“This is causing isolation and mental health problems for those unable to use the service. Time and time again the most vulnerable are hit the hardest.

“Accessible public transport that has an increased frequency and free for everyone is one of my election priorities. It will be something I will campaign for inside the chamber and in the community.”

Damien O’Farrell (Independent), North Central: “Having an accessible Public Transport system is vitally important for people with disabilities to live and commute independently. I know that for many people with disabilities around our country travel spontaneity is non existent with advance notice of travel having to be given.

“People with disabilities also endure major problem as regards reliability and are often not able to access Dart stations and travel on our trains seamlessly.  Dart patrons with mobility issues have to rely on working lifts to access platforms and also staff being available to help with ramps for train boarding and disembarking.  It is often the case that a lift is broken or there is no staff available to help with a ramp.

Damian O’Farrell

“I know that many users feel there is no ‘back up’ plan when lifts break down or staff are not available to put out  ramps and it’s not good enough that patrons with mobility issues have to often rely on the good will of fellow Dart users to travel.  At the very minimum staff need to be available in all stations and lifts need to be maintained and serviced more regularly.  

“I’m aware that Irish Rail will be going out to tender soon in order to have more carriages built and it is imperative that this new rail stock is completely disability friendly.”

Stephen O’Loughlin (Independent), Cabra-Glasnevin: “It is estimated that 13% of the Irish population are classed as disabled and 13% who do not have full access to travel and services in Ireland in 2019.

“I have been contacted by disabled residents from my constituency on this very matter, of Irish Rail failing to provide essential services to disabled or elderly customers.

Stephen O’Loughlin

“It seems there is a regular occurrence where lifts/escalators are out of order which impacts access for these service users. You would imagine that Irish Rail like any other provider of a service would have an adequate standard of service for customers, but this problem seems a regular occurrence throughout the rail network.

“We as a decent society need to implement the UN Convention for people with disabilities in all sections of our society, giving equal access to facilities and opportunities.”

Tina MacVeigh (People Before Profit),
South West Inner City: “It is not surprising that investment into public transport accessibility is not adequate. This is the same government who cannot provide wheelchairs to young people, in some cases endangering their lives. It is not up for debate. The idea that we are an inclusive society cannot be in name alone, or an aspiration in a accessibility audit.

“Real access absolute equality of outcome – being able to easily access all forms of public transport – bus, train, taxi, dart – whenever, wherever and however it is needed. For this to happen we need a government that is committed to funding and infrastructure investment at all levels of our social and public system.”

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