Chapter 5


Report of Thematic Group 8

The Design and Operation of Accessible Public Transport Systems


The research undertaken in composing this report has led to several recommendations. These recommendations would begin to improve parity in travel for all European citizens.


5.1 All European Governments should develop implementation proposals for the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.

5.2 Previous attempts at European legislation on 'transport to work' should be revived and extended to protect all passengers from anti-discriminatory practices in the provision of public transport. This legislation should apply equally to all member states, and transport operators therein. Principally it should direct that:

5.2.1 a new set of ergonomic design standards be agreed that realistically reflect the range of movement of the current and future population of Europe; these should be used throughout Europe, that each member state should provide its own procedural guidelines detailing how these measures should be implemented; development of such standards could result from harmonisation of existing 'construction and use' regulations;

5.2.2 information systems should take on a European standard format so that there is no communication breakdown between systems, localities or countries;

5.2.3 standards should be introduced regarding wheelchair and passenger safety and restraint systems, and wheelchair construction; this would ensure compatibility for European-wide travel;

5.2.4 transport systems must be viewed as a Europe-wide chain. Transport operators must not provide new systems (or modify existing ones) without ensuring that the system is compatible with other systems operating in the same area, or any other system with which it has links;

5.2.5 agreement should made on the issue of eligibility for concessionary travel so that there are European criteria for eligibility; whilst recognising different local and national political approaches, it would nevertheless seem advantageous, at least where international travel is concerned, to devise some common fare structure which is not dependent on the country of origin, place of purchase or mode of travel;

5.2.6 non-compliance with the legislation should give rise to penalties for the transport operator, and compensation for the users concerned;

5.2.7 actions brought by consumers under the legislation should be eligible for legal aid;

5.2.8 a European-wide database of accessible design policies and practice be established; this would enable research actions to be better co-ordinated;

5.2.9 design for access should be a compulsory part of professional training for engineers, and transport planners and operators;

5.2.10 a European 'Taxi Council' and taxicard scheme should be established.


APPENDIX A - Background Information Relating to Mobility Restrictions



Only five per cent of those who are visually impaired have no sight at all. The remainder will have varying degrees of sight which will enable them to function visually to different degrees. The nature of visual disability varies considerably between individuals. The overall picture is a complex one, but generally the result of different eye conditions will lead to the following type of impairment:

- a limited field of vision, being unable to see the sides or up and down;

- some loss of central vision, limiting the ability to see fine detail;

- gross shortsightedness, seeing the world as a continual blur;

- uncontrollable oscillations of the eyeball, leading to an inability to see objects clearly;

- night blindness, a sensitivity to light and a tendency to be dazzled by glare.



In broad terms, visual impairment falls into two main groups, although in practice there is some degree of overlap between the two.

Loss of Sharpness Across the Visual Field

This is where the individual experiences a loss of acuity right across the visual field. The term visual field refers to everything that can be seen at a glance: when looking directly at an object we will still see things above, below and to the sides of that object, as well as other items sited beyond it. This loss of sharpness will mean that the individual affected will see the world in the form of a degraded picture. The degree of severity of the condition will determine the visual quality of the image seen.

If the loss is small, it will render the individual's view of the world as slightly blurred, with objects appearing a little unclear. In this case, detail will begin to merge together as a definable-with-difficulty image. As the eye condition increases in severity, the perceived image becomes progressively blurred and indistinct, with objects merging into an indeterminate whole. At this point, the world becomes a series of splodges, blurs and indefinable shapes all coming together in a kaleidoscope of moving patterns and tones.


Areas of Non-Vision

The second type of visual loss produces areas of non-vision within the visual field. The loss in the visual field can be either in the central area, as in some types of macular degeneration,peripheral, as in glaucoma or some types of retinitis pigmentosa, or it can be combinations of the two, producing a kind of patchy vision which is sometimes associated with diabetes.

A loss in the central area is the most common form of visual impairment among elderly people; over sixty per cent of those registered have this form of impairment. This type of loss will mean that the person affected will find it more difficult to see detail and perform near-vision tasks such reading and recognising people. An accompanying loss of colour perception is likely and so difficulties may arise in detecting subtle variations of colour. However, peripheral vision, which even in the normal eye is progressively more blurred towards the edge of the normal field, is seldom affected. This means that the individual's ability to move about and negotiate objects is less affected that might at first be thought.

Casual observation of someone with a central sight loss will reveal apparent contradictions in the performance of everyday tasks. On the one hand, the person appears to move around with relative ease and with a good degree of safety and independence, even though they are unable to read notices or recognise friends in the street. Someone with this type of sight loss will be able to see where objects are situated but will experience varying degrees of difficulty in determining what they are.

Familiarity with the area and life experience are also factors in this particular equation. In more familiar places, the person affected will move around in a much more relaxed way than on unfamiliar terrain. In addition the library of stored information in the brain will provide clues about an object despite the fact that the visual impression is not clear enough to distinguish what an object is. This is particularly true of standardised objects such as post boxes.


Tunnel Vision

This type of visual loss, commonly known as Tunnel Vision, causes the person affected to lose all, or most of their peripheral vision whilst retaining normal acuity in a reduced central spot.

In severe cases of tunnel vision, it may be necessary for the individual to scan the area in order to locate the visual information that is being sought. This scanning technique must be repeated with each step the person takes to ensure that the relevant information is gained at the last possible second and that the way ahead is clear.

One of the difficulties with this type of visual loss is that mobile objects at the side suddenly come into view leaving little time to avoid collision. Also low objects may remain undetected, particularly when the person affected is focused on their destination. It is easy for someone walking across a crowded room to fall over low objects such as furniture outside the field of view.

Peripheral vision also enables us to see in the dark and so severe peripheral loss diminishes this ability, which in turn affects the person's mobility in varying lighting conditions. There are apparent contradictions in this condition. People with peripheral loss may grope around in the dark but if the lighting conditions are just right then they may be able to move around with relative ease. They may be able to read the smallest print in a newspaper, or spot a needle on the carpet, but when moving around will collide with objects.


A Combination of Visual Loss

In some eye conditions, the effect on vision is, or can be, a combination of all these factors. In other words, the person can experience a degree of loss in the central field and also various losses within the peripheral area, producing a patchy type of vision. The position and size of the patchiness will determine how the individual sees the world and the density of these patches will affect the amount of detail which becomes visible. People with this condition will see the world differently depending on the size of the blank or unaffected areas.

Normal sight: detail is instantly visible and there would be no problem in negotiating the area.

Cataract: the scene begins to blur, some key features begin to merge and the detail is drastically reduced; signs would be difficult to read.

Macular Degeneration: no central vision makes way finding extremely difficult even though peripheral vision remains. Signs would be impossible to read.

Tunnel Vision: a very small central part of the scene is visible giving no warning of hazards and making progress very slow.

Diabetic Retinopathy: patchy vision results in a lack of sharpness across the visual field; the scene merges together making it almost impossible to see which way to travel.



The ear consists of three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. Each has a role in enabling us to hear and recognise sounds.

Diagram Of The Ear

In very basic terms, sound waves, which consist of vibrations in the air, are funnelled by the external ear along the ear canal towards the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates in time with the sound waves and causes the three tiny bones in the middle ear to move. These transmit the vibrations to the inner ear (cochlea).

The inner ear consists of three semi-circular canals which are responsible for balance and the cochlea which is the sense organ for hearing.

The cochlea is a fluid filled coiled tube, lined with tiny hair cells which are sensitive to the sound vibrations. The hair cells respond by sending along the nerve of hearing to the brain where impulses are interpreted and recognised as sound.

Deafness results when any thing goes wrong with the normal hearing mechanism.

There are two broad types of hearing impairment.


Conductive Deafness

Conductive deafness results from any obstruction in the outer or middle ear. It may result from wax or inflammation of the outer ear; infection in the middle ear which becomes full of fluid; a blocked eustachian tube or an abnormal growth of the tiny bones in the middle ear. Conductive deafness normally leads to muffling of external sounds, but can usually be cured these days. Hearing aids can be very useful to most people with conductive deafness.


Sensori Neural Deafness

Sensori Neural Deafness is caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear and is now more common than conductive deafness. The tiny hair cells may be damaged due to infection, drugs or genetic transfer. Exposure to loud noises can also cause Sensori Neural Deafness and tinnitus. However, the most common cause is the gradual deterioration of the hair cells with advancing age. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Sensori Neural Deafness, which often causes sound to become distorted and meaningless. Hearing aids are less useful to people with this type of hearing impairment as they are only able to increase the volume of sounds, and do not restore the lost ability to hear.


Levels of Deafness

People are often classified as having mild, moderate, severe and profound levels of hearing loss. They are not an automatic indication of the persons ability to communicate or understand speech. However, the following explanation may be useful:

Mild Hearing Loss (25 - 40 dBHL) - a person will generally have some difficulty following speech, mainly in noisy situations.

Moderate Hearing Loss (41-70dBHL) - a person will generally have some difficulty following speech, mainly without a hearing aid, and will have greater difficulty in noisy situations. They will probably find both hearing aids and lip reading skills helpful. Most people with this level of hearing loss will be able to use the telephone with an amplifier and/or an inductive coupler.

Severe Hearing Loss (72 - 95 dBHL) A person may have difficulty following speech even with a hearing aid, so that lip reading skills will be important. If they have been deaf from birth or early childhood, they may use sign language. Most people with this level of hearing loss will find it difficult to use a conventional telephone, even with extra amplification.

Profound Hearing Loss ( 96 dBHL and over) At this level of hearing loss, hearing aids may be little or no help, and most people depend heavily on lip reading. Again, they may use sign language if they have been deaf from birth or early childhood. They will be unable to use a conventional telephone even with extra amplification.




Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement and posture beginning in early childhood. It is caused by damage or failure in the normal development of a part of the brain and is generally assumed to be non-progressive, that is that it does not get any worse.

There is no abnormality in arms or legs in cerebral palsy children; the disorder is essentially one of the brain failing to send correct messages to the limbs.

The variation of symptoms amongst people with cerebral palsy is probably greater than is greater than most other disabilities. At one extreme, is a scarcely definable problem of hand control; at the other there is an extreme difficulty in standing or moving any limbs in a controlled manner. Not only is there such a variation as far as movement is concerned, there is a high rate of associated physical problems arising from differences in other parts of the brain, and a person with cerebral palsy may, or may not, also be deaf, and have a visual or learning disability.

Limbs can be affected with a particular kind of muscle stiffness or rigidity leading to disordered movement. About 75% of people with cerebral palsy experience this type of difficulty, and limbs can be affected as follows:

1. Hemiplegia: both limbs on one side of the body

2. Paraplegia: both legs

3. Diplegia: all four limbs.


There is often some weakness in the hands as well.

About 10% of people who have cerebral palsy have Athetosis, a condition leading to frequent involuntary movements, while a much smaller percentage will be Ataxic, which affects balance and gives rise to an unsteady gait. Many people will experience a combination of these conditions.

The mobility needs of a person with cerebral palsy are many and varied. Some will be able to negotiate transport systems as they currently exist, whilst others will require particular facilities to be provided. See Ambulatory difficulties and wheelchair users under Basic Functional Requirements.


Motor Neurone Disease (ALS)

Motor neurone disease, or myotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a progressive disease of the nervous system. The cause is not known and there is no cure, although progress is being made on both fronts.

Motor neurone disease attacks motor neurons, which are among the largest of all nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. These cells send messages to muscles throughout the body. In motor neurone disease, motor neurons die and the muscles do not receive these messages. As a result, muscles weaken as they lose their ability to move. Eventually, most muscle action is affected, including those which control swallowing and breathing, as well as major muscles in the arms, legs, back and neck. There is, however, no loss of sensory nerves, so people with motor neurone disease retain their sense of feeling, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The mind is not affected by this disease and people with motor neurone disease remain fully alert and aware of events. The course of motor neurone disease is extremely variable and it is difficult to predict the rate of progression in any single patient. For the majority of people with motor neurone disease, weakness tends to progress over a three-to-five year period.

Motor neurone disease can strike anyone, at any age, but generally motor neurone disease occurs between the ages of 40 and 70. About 4 to 6 people per 100,000 worldwide get motor neurone disease. In a small percentage of patients, motor neurone disease is genetic.


Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system in which a vital insulating material called myelin is damaged or destroyed. This process is referred to as demyelination.

Myelin serves as an insulation on nerve fibres much like the insulating material which covers an electrical wire. When the insulation on a wire is damaged or destroyed, the flow of electrical current may be interrupted and a short-circuit occurs. Similarly, in MS, when the myelin is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses from the brain to the spinal cord are interrupted, resulting in various symptoms. MS patients may experience any or all of the following symptoms.

Decreased or blurred vision, weakness, speech or swallowing dysfunction, tremors, bowel or bladder difficulties, dizziness, thinking or memory problems, extreme fatigue, decreased sensation and coordination, spasticity. These symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe. The range and severity of symptoms vary depending upon the location and extent of the demyelination.

MS occurs more often in women and in the Caucasian population. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50. MS seldom strikes people under the age of 15 or over the age of 50. 20% have benign MS with no permanent disability, 30% have intermittent symptoms with long periods of stability, 40% have a slowly progressive form of the illness, 10-20% have steady progression from onset, 30% of those diagnosed with chronic progressive MS stabilize with after two years, 75% diagnosed with MS never need a wheelchair, 40% diagnosed experience no disruptions of their normal activities.

Depending on the progression of clinical symptoms, MS may be classified into the following fairly distinct types:

1. Benign MS, which develops little progression.

2. Benign relapsing-remitting MS, which presents fluctuations of symptoms and mild disability.

3. Chronic relapsing MS, indicated by significantly increasing disability with each attack.

4. Chronic progressive MS, characterized by a lack of remission with continued progressive disability.


Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive neurological disorder affecting learned voluntary movements such as walking, talking, writing and swallowing. The four major hallmark symptoms of Parkinson's disease are:

1. Rigidity - stiffness when the arm, leg or neck is moved back and forth.

2. Resting Tremor - tremor most prominent at rest, when sitting quietly.

3. Bradykinesia - slowness in initiating movement.

4. Loss of postural reflexes - patients have poor balance and may fall.


Parkinson's Disease results from the loss of the chemical messenger, dopamine, within the centre of the movement in the mid-brain. The cause is as yet unidentified and there is no known cure. Parkinson's Disease is not inherited nor is it contagious.

The incidence of Parkinson's Disease is approximately 1:1000 in the general population, rising to 1:100 over the age of 65 and 1:50 over the age of 80. A little recognised fact is that 1:20 people diagnosed are aged under 40. There are more than 120,000 people with Parkinson's Disease in the United Kingdom today and it is common in all parts of the world.


Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is the most frequently occurring permanently disabling birth defect. More children have spina bifida than have muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined. Spina bifida results from the failure of the spine to close properly during the first month of pregnancy. In severe cases, the spinal cord protrudes through the back and may be covered by skin or a thin membrane. Surgery to close a newborn's back is generally performed within 24 hours after birth to minimize the risk of infection and to preserve existing function in the spinal cord.

There are three forms of spina bifida:

1. Occulta. In this usually harmless form of spina bifida, there is a small defect or gap in a few of the small bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine. The spinal cord and nerves are usually completely normal, and most affected individuals have no problems caused by this minor abnormality. About 5% of the population may be affected, and many cases are discovered only accidentally when an X-ray is taken for other reasons. In a minority of cases, such as when several vertebrae are involved, an affected individual may develop leg numbness and mild loss of bladder control as an adult.

2. Meningocele. In this rarest form of spina bifida, a cyst or lump consisting of membranes surrounding the spinal cord pokes through the open part of the spine. The spinal cord and nerves are usually normal. The cyst, which can be as small as a nut or as large as a grapefruit, can be removed by surgery allowing the baby to develop normally. Occasionally, there may be some weakness in the legs or problems with bladder or bowel control.

3. Meningomyelocele. In this most severe form of spina bifida, the cyst holds nerve roots of the spinal cord and often the cord itself, usually malformed. Or there may be no cyst, but only a fully exposed section of the spinal cord and nerves. The lesion may have little or no skin protecting it. Spinal fluid may leak out, and the area often is covered with sores. Affected babies are at high risk of infection until the newborn's back is closed surgically. In spite of surgery, varying degrees of leg paralysis and bladder and bowel control problems remain.



Arthritis is a rheumatic disease, of which there are many different types, but they all affect a joint or joints in some way. The effect is different in each person, but for most people, arthritis causes discomfort, pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is most likely to cause mobility problems, such as stiffness or immobility of joints. According to 'Arthritis Care', around 8 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis, including 1 million under 45 years, and 15,000 children.



Of all disabling conditions this is the hardest to define satisfactorily. Essentially, people are classified as learning disabled according to what they do rather than who they are, and human behaviour is complex in its origin, variable in its manifestation and open to wide interpretation as to its nature. The result is that there is generally little disagreement when defining a profound learning disability, but uncertainty increases the closer a person's behaviour is to what is considered the 'norm'.

The most commonly used measurement technique is the intelligence test which gives a result for each person expressed as an IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Most tests have an IQ of 100 as average with 68% of any average population scoring between 85 and 115 and about 2.3% getting scores below 70. The use of the concept of 'mental age' is of uncertain value. A thirty year old with a so-called mental age of five years functions quite differently to a three year old with a mental age of five.

The ready assumption that anyone with an IQ of 70 or below should be regarded as having a learning disability has been criticised on several counts: tests look only at a sample of what a person can do, they do not measure qualities like persistence or curiosity. Results reflect what a person has learned rather than what they may learn given optional conditions, and no test has yet been devised to enable us to consider a person independently of their cultural background. However, an assessment of IQ, developmental history, medial reports and feedback from significant persons, such as parents, teachers etc all play a role in defining the existence of a learning disability. The following definitions should be read with some caution as, as already stated, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be exact about the level of learning disability.


Profound learning disability (IQ 0 -20)

A person is not capable of self maintenance and would need special personal care. They are unlikely to learn to walk or to have simple speech.


Severe learning disability (IQ 20-30)

A person will have some understanding of speech and will be able to perform simple tasks. They will however, require constant supervision and support.


Moderate learning disability (IQ 30-50)

A person is likely to be able to learn simple communication skills and safety habits. They may read but with little understanding. They are likely to need supervision in carrying out some tasks and may require assistance with personal care. They are often able to travel alone in familiar areas and on known routes.


Mild learning disability (IQ 50-75)

A person is more likely to acquire practical skills and be literate. They may require guidance and support, but not assistance with personal care. They may walk and talk quite slowly.






ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE, Guidelines for the Design of Interchanges, Terminals, and Stops, Barham, P., Oxley, P., Shaw, A. (Cranfield University, 1994).

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN GREECE, Leventi, A. (Ministry of Environment, Planning and Public Works, Greece 1995).

BUILDING SIGHT, Barker, P., Barrick, J., Wilson, R. (Royal National Institute for the Blind, UK, 1995).

THE CITIZEN'S CHARTER, Overview 1995-96 (Department of Transport Mobility Unit, UK).

THE CITIZEN'S NETWORK, Fulfilling the Potential of Public Transport in Europe (European Commission Green Paper, Belgium/Luxembourg, 1996).

COST 322, Low Floor Buses (Interim Report) (European Commission Directorate General for Transport, Belgium, May 1995).

COST 335, Proposals of the new action presented by the British delegation 'Accessibility of heavy rail systems to elderly and disabled people' (European Commission Directorate General for Transport, Belgium, April 1995).

CROSS SECTOR BENEFITS OF ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC TRANSPORT, Fowkes, A., Oxley, P., Heiser, B. (Cranfield University, UK, 1995).

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT Transport Bulletins 1 & 2 (Department of Transport, UK, 1996).


DPTAC Re-statement of Recommended Specifications for Buses Used to Operate Local Services (Department of Transport, UK, 1993).

DPTAC Advice for Taxi Drivers (Department of Transport, UK, 1995).

EASY TRAVEL, A Guide to Metrolink (Manchester Metrolink, UK 1993)

ECAC/ECMT Conclusions of the Seminar on Access to Air Travel for Persons with Reduced Mobility (European Commission, Belgium, February 1994).

ECAC/CEAC Manual Of ECAC Recommendations And Resolutions Relating To Facilitation and Security Matters (European Commission, Belgium, May 1995).



FOURTH FRAMEWORK RTD WORK PROGRAMME (European Commission Directorate General for Transport, Belgium, December 1995).

IDEAS INTO ACTION CONFERENCE, Current Issues in Air Travel in Europe., Penn, D. (European Commission Directorate General for Transport, Belgium, July 1995).

IMPROVING BUS ACCESSIBILITY SYSTEMS FOR PERSONS WITH SENSORY AND COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENTS, Hunter-Zaworski and Hron (Transportation Research Institute, Oregon State University, USA, 1993).

Le TAG "Une Ville et Un Tramway", Grenoble (France).

MEETING THE NEEDS OF DISABLED PASSENGERS (Office of the Rail Regulator, UK, 1995).



REPORT ON THE INSPECTION VISIT TO LILLE AND PARIS (Joint Committee on Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People, UK, 1991).

SERVICE ROUTES IN BORAS, Stahl, A. (Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden, 1989).

TRAVELLERS' INFORMATION Special Needs Edition (Heathrow Travel-Care, UK, 1994).



Schoeneweider Strasse 7

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Highbank, Halton Street

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tel: +44 (0)161 366 6685

Unit 11, Spectrum House

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Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SR

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17 Amaliados Str.

Athens, GREECE GR-11523

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PO Box 8011, Dept N-0030 Oslo, NORWAY

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Korai Sq. 1

Piraeus, GREECE GR-18510

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85 High Street

Worcester, WR1 2ET, UK

tel: +44 (0)1905 617761

Giannari 39 & Paraskevopoulou

Athens, GREECE GR-10445

tel: +301 8312740

Mobility Unit, 224 Great Portland Street

London, W1N 6AA

tel: +44 (0)171 388 1266

18 Malva Close, London SW18 2JU

tel: +44 (0)181-877 9476

1b Yukon Road, London SW12 9PZ

tel: +44 (0)181-675 7460





Questionnaire on Accessible Transport Systems


The following questions were asked:



Member State:

E-mail address:


Organisational Considerations

1) What provision is made in your country for the planning and integration of transport systems..

a) Nationally?

b) Locally?

2) How do you think this could be improved?

3) What are the essential elements that should be included in planning an accessible transport system?

[Respondents were asked to respond always/usually/rarely to questions 4 and 5.]

4) In your country, is information provided to the passengers?

a) Before travel via guides and brochures?

b) When guides are provided, are large print and braille copies available?

c) Before travel via telephone information services?

5) At interchanges, stations and transport stops is information available?

a) In large print?

b) In embossed signs and maps?

c) Audibly?

d) In pictorial symbols?

6) Is such information accurate?

7) Is there enough information?

8) Is it easy to understand?

9) Is tactile information available (ie. guide paths etc.)?

10) What do you consider the key elements in providing information systems?

11) Do the elderly, or people with disabilities receive concessions on their fares?

12) How is eligibility established for such concessions?

13) How is it funded?

14) What is the user feedback on the adequacy of such provision?

15) What if any are the restrictions on people with disabilities using transport services?

16) Is it compulsory for transport staff to be trained in issues of disability awareness and safety?

17) Is such training adequate? If not, how can it be improved?

18) To what extent are the customers consulted in the provision of adequate facilities?

19) How effective is the consultation process?

20) What are the examples of good and bad practice in this area?


Political Considerations

1) Do you have a national policy for the provision of accessible transport systems?

2) Is there effective legislation in this area?

3) Has there been any cross-sector analysis done in your country?

4) If so, what are the results of this?

5) Has the government provided subsidies for the purchase of accessible vehicles?

6) What are the examples of good and bad practice that you can give in this area?