This guide provides advice on how transport planners and providers, architects, engineers, builders, certifiers and all levels of government can work together with people with disability to make public transport more accessible.
There are a variety of standards across government and industry that must be complied with in relation to designing and building public infrastructure. This guide asks us to go beyond compliance to deliver better outcomes.
The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards)1 are made under subsection 31(1) of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)2. The Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development is responsible for providing public transport policy advice on the Transport Standards.
Before the Transport Standards were introduced—while certain obligations existed in the DDA and individuals had the right to lodge discrimination complaints—there was no focused effort to remove discrimination from Australia's public transport systems including aircraft, buses and coaches, ferries, taxis, trains, trams, light rail, motor rail, rack railways and other rolling stock.
The Transport Standards provide a level of certainty to operators and providers of public transport services and infrastructure on their responsibilities under the DDA. The standards identify target dates for compliance within a 20 year timeframe, and 30 years for certain trains and trams. The standards also help ensure Australia meets its international obligations.
The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities3 in 2008 reflects Australia's commitment to promoting and supporting equal and active participation by people with disability in economic and social life. The DDA and Transport Standards are important for Australia to meet its international obligations.
There are also a number of support programs. For example, the Australian Government has established the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)4 to support people with a permanent and significant disability which affects their capacity to take part in everyday activities.
In the 15 years since the Transport Standards were established, there has been a significant change in the way that governments, public transport operators and providers address access to public transport for people with disability. In this context, the DDA requires the Transport Standards to be reviewed every five years, with the first review commencing in 2007 and the second in 2012. The next review is scheduled to commence in 2017.
The Second Review of the Transport Standards PDF: 2707 KB 5 found them effective in bringing forward investment in accessible infrastructure and conveyances, and requiring public transport operators and providers—public and private—to plan and implement upgrades to their transport assets.
The second review also found the Transport Standards were effective in reducing discrimination on the grounds of disability, but that progress towards compliance was continuing. Still, there were a number of areas where improvements could be made.
One of these is addressing whole-of-journey accessibility, one of seven key recommendations from the review. This document, The Whole Journey: a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys (The Whole Journey), has been prepared to address this recommendation.
Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport, Second Review Report Recommendation 4
“That the Australian Government, jointly with state, territory and local governments, develop accessibility guidelines for a whole-of-journey approach to public transport planning by 30 June 2016.”
The Australian Government's Response to the second review PDF: 292 KB 6, also agreed to work jointly with state and territory governments to update and modernise the Transport Standards. This process is being undertaken in close consultation with industry, local government and the disability sector, and includes consideration of current alternative and innovative design solutions.
1.1 Transport Standards and the whole journey
Whole-of-journey planning is about creating complete, seamless journeys for public transport users—journeys from A to B and to C to D and back again. Public transport is a crucial aspect of liveability in any community, providing an alternative option to private vehicles. Public transport seeks to offer cost effective, environmentally sustainable mass transport services for those who choose to use it, as well as those who have no other transport choice due to their age (young or elderly), economic situation, lack of a driver's licence or disability. For these people especially, public transport is key to their participation and inclusion in society.
Delivering an accessible, whole public transport journey is important not only for those with permanent disability, but also for people who may have a temporary disability—such as an injury—as well as older people, pregnant women, people travelling with children, and people who are in unfamiliar locations or carrying luggage, goods or equipment.
Quote from to the second review of the Transport Standards—National Disability Services
“The success of the Transport Standards is about achieving access for the ‘whole journey’. The standards are only a means to an end. Success is not achieved with partial implementation: for example, a train door may be wide enough but if a person cannot access timetable information they cannot use the train. Real success is only achieved when people are able to make the whole journey.
Whole-of-journey accessibility requires that accessible provision is consistent and reliable. It only takes one ‘stranding’ or one barrier along the journey for a person to lose confidence with the transport system and to disable further participation.”
The DDA allows the Australian Government to make standards to ensure that people with disability are not discriminated against, and to provide information about these standards. The purpose of the Transport Standards is to enable public transport operators and providers to remove discrimination from their services.
The Transport Standards do this by providing technical clarity. This includes extensive technical criteria for certain parts of a public transport journey, including stops, terminals and public transport vehicles. They have created a wave of positive change across all aspects of the public transport that they cover. The standards also interact with the Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards 20107.
There are however many other aspects of a person's journey that are not addressed by the standards. Even in public transport systems that otherwise comply with prescribed accessibility standards, people with disability often face a range of barriers to a seamless accessible journey.
While some guidance on whole-of-journey planning is available at the local, state and territory government levels, there has been no guidance at the national level to help operators and providers to address whole-of-journey accessibility.
In developing the Whole Journey Guide, the Australian Government's intention is to promote thinking beyond compliance. This includes facilitating best practices based on innovation and continuous improvement, human-centred design, understanding, consultation and collaboration. Accordingly, the Whole Journey Guide is not intended to be a legally enforceable standard, nor guidelines to the Transport Standards. Instead it seeks to examine each element of the journey to provide direction and highlight the experiences people have within and between the different parts.
However, it is also recognised that some individual elements within the guide, and practices arising from future developments as a result of the guide's use, may suggest consideration of new or amended standards in specific areas. The five-yearly reviews of the Transport Standards provide opportunities for this to occur.
1.2 Who should use The Whole Journey Guide?
This guide is designed to encourage policy makers, planners, designers, builders, certifiers and operators to think beyond compliance and the physical and governance boundaries of services and infrastructure, and to focus instead on people's accessibility needs across their whole journey.
This means a change of focus from providing compliant public transport infrastructure or services to enabling a travel experience that is accessible, comfortable, seamless, efficient and cost effective.
The Whole Journey Guide also provides a resource for people with disability to use when discussing whole-of-journey accessibility and by informing those not familiar with accessible transport solutions.
This whole journey approach requires cooperation and discussion between those who deliver, service and use parts of the transport system. Everyone needs to work together to identify issues, solutions and opportunities.
Carolyn, Victorian public transport user:
“Better and compulsory training in disability access (understanding the DDA, not just complying with standards) is needed for people responsible for planning, purchasing, and delivering services, from the ones designing and ordering new rolling stock or modifying existing infrastructure, through to those delivering the service: ticket sales, drivers, etc.”
- Australian, state and territory government agencies
- local governments
- public transport infrastructure owners
- public transport service providers
- landscape architects
- urban designers
- strategic and urban planners
- transport planners
- building certifiers
- accessibility consultants/auditors
- software/website designers
- owners of private facilities
- building managers
- precinct managers
- public policy makers
- disability support workers and agencies
1.3 Benefits of focusing on the whole journey
In 2015 there were 4.3 million Australians with disability, representing 18.3 per cent of the population (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015). Around half of Australians aged 65 years or more reported having disability. Given Australia's growing and ageing population, the number of people with disability will continue to increase.
People with disability are more likely to experience social and economic disadvantage because of more limited opportunities to earn income and the high cost (in proportion to their income) of their housing, travel, medical and other needs. In many cases disability restricts people from driving a private vehicle, either through physical or cognitive ability or the lack of economic resources to own and operate a car. For many people, the perceived or real inaccessibility of public transport leaves them reliant on family or friends, or particular types of public transport such as the taxi system and the increasingly popular ride-share. This reliance on others to drive them where they want to go affects their ability to participate independently in many social, economic or cultural aspects of the community.
Access to public transport opens up opportunities for personal empowerment, social inclusion and community participation. People can choose to travel to see friends and family, and participate in social and cultural activities or other initiatives such as training or education. Accessible public transport allows individuals to travel based on their requirements (such as cost, time of day, urgency of travel, length of the journey, interchanges etc.) rather than having to rely on private transport options.
Public transport is cost effective for individuals and the economy. Improving the accessibility of public transport can promote more efficient transport decisions by individuals, and increase the customer base as more people are able to travel for work, business or study. This improves productivity and supports a stronger economy.
1.4 Consultation on the Whole Journey Guide
The guide has been developed with the community, industry and governments, drawing on their extensive knowledge and experience. Its development was overseen by the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee.
Initially this involved in-depth consultations and workshops around the nation with stakeholders including disability non-government organisations, public transport providers, and all levels of government, service providers and other interested individuals.
The draft guide was available for public comment from 27 March to 14 June 2017 and 43 formal submissions were received. During this time the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development also partnered with Disabled People's Organisations Australia to hold in-depth focus group workshops with people with disability in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin.
The consultations provided valuable additional material which the Department has sought to incorporate as far as practical, while keeping the guide to a length that is readable and consistent with its intended purpose. This includes promoting ‘thinking beyond compliance’ by facilitating best practices based on innovation and continuous improvement, human-centred design, understanding, consultation and collaboration.
Some issues raised within the submissions have been identified for consideration as part of the current modernisation of standards being undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (see also section 1.1 above).
The submissions may provide readers with further information and perspectives. This includes viewpoints of organisations representing people with physical, vision, hearing, intellectual or other disability.
Submissions are available on the Department's website infrastructure.gov.au/transport.
The views or recommendations of third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action.