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Access for all icon

Access for all

What is accessibility
Accessibility on the agenda
What we have done
What we are doing


We believe that everyone should be able to get to, and use, transport and buildings. Yet for many people this is not currently possible.

We are the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, or DPTAC. We have been established by an Act of Parliament as an independent body to advise Government on the transport and the built environment needs of all disabled people across the UK.

This is a huge task. There are over 8.5 million disabled people in Great Britain, who face major, widespread problems and disadvantages on all forms of transport and in the built environment.

Our aim is to ensure that all disabled people can go where everyone else goes and that they can do so easily and without extra cost. We would like to see this happen over the next 10 years.

Our philosophy and approach are underpinned by the social model of disability. That means that we believe the barriers that exclude disabled people from full participation in society are the result of the way transport and built environments are constructed, and society's attitude towards disabled people, rather than just being the result of individual impairments.

Attitudes are changing. There has already been some progress in recent years but it has been slow.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 created statutory rights and obligations. Under the Act, new trains and buses must meet tough accessibility requirements. Although this is a great improvement on where this country was only few years ago, this Act still needs to be improved.

There is still much to do.

We advocate the promotion of an accessible transport system and inclusive built environment in the advice we give to Government.

An accessible transport system is one that recognises the need for every stage in the journey to be accessible to disabled people. It sets out to include as many people as possible. It does not attempt to meet every single need. Rather, by considering people's diversity, accessible transport systems try to break down unnecessary barriers and exclusion. In doing so it will often achieve superior solutions that benefit everyone.

What is accessibility?

We believe that the concept of accessibility goes far wider than improving access to a range of jobs, services and facilities. It should include ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to use the full range of transport services, buildings and opens spaces that make up the places in which we live.

'Accessibility' is a term that is interpreted differently by different audiences depending on their interests and backgrounds. The term is used in a variety of different contexts.

Accessibility in its widest sense may mean people can get to the building but takes limited account of the difficulties they experience in doing so.

For example, accessibility to a transport planner may mean that a distance or 400m to a bus stop from a person's front door is acceptable. That definition would be different from our definition, which takes into account the fact many disabled people cannot walk more than 50m without a rest, as the table below from DTLR guidance on pedestrian infrastructure shows

Impairment Recommended distance limit
without a rest
Wheelchair users 150m
Visually impaired 150m
Stick users 50m
Ambulatory without walking aid 100m

"Accessibility" does not just mean "easy to reach". It also means "easy to use".

In developing our advice we seek to ensure that disabled people have access to the same range of services and facilities as non-disabled people, at no additional cost.

We welcome the Government's commitment in its 10-year plan for transport to make accessibility for disabled people a condition of public funding. This stated;

6.5 The Government is committed to public transport that is accessible to disabled people. The rate and level of new investment in this Plan will ensure that improvements in the accessibility of public transport are brought forward more quickly. Building in accessibility for disabled people in all new investment is a condition of public money being spent. Local authorities and transport operators should ensure that the transport needs of disabled people are factored into their plans and that the full benefits of improved public transport are accessible to all.

6.6 We will be developing measures for evaluating accessibility in transport systems, and in streets and public spaces, to check that investment is delivering real improvements in the day-to-day mobility of disabled people. Based on this work, and building on the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, we will also be setting targets for improvements in the quality of service delivery to disabled people.

This commitment should ensure improvements to accessibility are built into all future projects. We believe this should be required whatever the source of funding for transport services - public or private - and is good practice in the design and management of the built environment.

Disabled people are not a homogenous group with identical needs - they are individuals. Disabled people including those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities, those with physical and mental health problems. Accessibility benefits everyone, including people travelling with children, temporary disabilities or simply encumbered with heavy luggage or shopping.

Accessibility is not a marginal issue. Disabled people make up a significant and growing part of the community and with an ageing population this is likely to increase in the future. There are approximately 8.5million disabled people.

Approximately 15% of the population are disabled and it is estimated that up to 30% of the population would benefit from an accessible transport system and built environment at any one time, not necessarily the same people everyday.

Furthermore, accessibility benefits everyone, including the operator of services. Making transport easier and more convenient for everyone can help generate additional journeys. Making buildings easier and more convenient for everyone can help to improve their efficiency, for example reducing the time spent providing directions to visitors.

Accessibility on the agenda

The 1979 Snowdon Commission (or Silver Jubilee Committee), when investigating access for disabled people, concluded that the general inaccessibility of most parts of the built environment was tantamount to an infringement of civil liberties. Much has changed since then but major barriers remain.

The UN standard rules on the equalisation of opportunities for persons with disabilities (1993), agreed by the UK Government, gave a clear signal on the need to address discrimination and provide a common framework for policy development. Accessibility was one target area and highlighted the need to;

  • develop standards, guidelines and possibly legislation
  • provide information to professionals
  • incorporate access at the start of the planning process and
  • consult disabled people

In 1999 the European Conference of Ministers of Transport adopted a Charter on access to transport services and infrastructure. It underlined the political commitment in Europe to ensuring that all new transport infrastructure be constructed to take into account the needs of people with disabilities.

In the UK there have been significant recent developments in many of these areas.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 represented a major step forward in seeking to end the discrimination of disabled people, despite its weaknesses. Accessibility regulations are in place for new trains and buses. Further regulations are planed for taxis. By 2004, those providing goods, services and facilities to the public will need to have addressed the barriers to disabled people accessing them.

The Disability Rights Task Force (DRTF) - which was set up to advise the Government on delivering enforceable and comprehensive civil rights for disabled people - has published its recommendations to Government on possible extensions to the DDA. A copy of their report, titled "From Exclusion to Inclusion", is available from the Department for Education and Employment by telephoning the DDA Help-line on 0345 622633.

The Government's response, Towards Inclusion - Civil Rights for Disabled People (available from DfEE accepted many of the recommendations and outlined what was being done to address them.

In April 2000, the Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) was established. Their broad remit is to work towards the elimination of discrimination against disabled people and to ensure that disabled people secure equal rights in all spheres and sectors of society.

Education and training of professionals remains a major barrier, as research for DPTAC undertaken by Social Research Associates identified. The key aims of the research were to bring together information on current education and training provision in accessibility and advise on strategy for ensuring that accessibility issues are covered in training of the current and future workforce.

We have established a working group to consider how to take forward recommendations on education and training.

What we have done

Over the fifteen years of its existence, DPTAC has consistently produced high quality advice to Government, industry and disabled people. Key achievements include:

  • Bringing together disabled people and industry, with representatives from Government, to ensure practical advice that can be implemented.
  • A recommended specification for low floor buses, which was the forerunner of subsequent Government Public Service Vehicle accessibility regulations
  • Detailed input into the drafting of rail vehicle accessibility regulations
  • A review of the Orange Badge parking scheme for disabled motorists, following which the UK Government has commissioned a major review of the issue
  • The production of detailed guidance on meeting the needs of disabled passengers on large passenger ships and in port buildings
  • Securing a commitment from the UK Government that any public expenditure on transport must be conditional on accessibility being built in to the project
  • Undertook research into disabled people's attitudes to transport

What we are doing

Our aim is to ensure that all disabled people can go where everyone else goes and that they can do so easily and without extra cost. We would like to see this happen over the next 10 years.

We are currently considering the following;

  • a comprehensive work programme through our working groups on aviation, the built environment, buses and coaches, ferries, personal mobility, rail and taxis;
  • additional groups focussing on London, where DPTAC has a statutory role to comment on the London Mayor's transport strategy, and on rural issues;
  • establishing a new working group on education and training
  • advising on how to take forward the commitment in Transport 2010 to make accessibility for disabled people a condition of public funding.
  • developing links with disability groups and providing advice to local disabled people.
  • developing links with the Disability Rights Commission and devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.

We welcome your comments and views on the issues raised above and any priorities not considered. Please e-mail us at: dptac@dft.gsi.gov.uk.

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Updated: 03 September 2009 | Copyright disclaimer | Content disclaimer | © Crown Copyright 2009