I was recently commissioned to do a radio documentary for the National Documentary and Features Series. The subject was disability and transport.
I had originally thought of presenting a number of technical things that are being done to help, but it became more of a piece about the broad impact that a disability has and the catastrophic changes it makes to people’s lives especially if the transport is difficult.
A number of AITPM members expressed an interest in taking up this subject.
The interviewees and some of their comments are as follows:
Ben Felton who gradually went blind by his mid-30s and is now a motivational speaker and has represented Australia in blind cricket and rowing.
You have to drive to get to your employment or you needed a car for your employment when it's raining. Wintertime, you know, walking for half an hour to get the local railway station; it's just it becomes too onerous. Life becomes difficult or it becomes very expensive.
It's like when you're a recluse at home when you're trapped at home, when you can't use public transport or have no transport. You aren't stimulated you're not out there in your community you're not engaged with it you're not participating you're not contributing and when you feel isolated like that you just feel like you don't have a sense of place.
And one of the most frustrating things to me wasn't necessarily about being blind that I didn't know or understood how blind person could have a meaningful place in the world in society.
Johanna Garvin who has cerebral palsy and who now has an electric wheelchair:
I think it helped in the sense that it made me more of an equal in the sense that people didn't have to feel like they had to push me and it wasn't too bad. At school that I didn't really have equal relationships. In comparison to now as an adult I do.
David Saxberg – who went blind at the age of seven and who has graduated from ANU with a communications degree and now works in that industry.
I'm not saying this to have sympathy but understanding and empathy; to understand what it's like to be in our situation and try and make it easier.
How on earth can someone in a manual wheelchair push themselves up this ramp. That's a joke. Like it's really unfair and it's supposed to be a network for everyone to be able to use not just the fit and healthy.
Emerita Professor Corinne Mulley – former Chair of Public Transport at the Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies at Sydney University
Think about Redfern Station. They've put in two lifts but only two lifts because to put a lift on every platform would be prohibitively expensive. I don't think it's fair to people with this ability to say if you want to go to Redfern but the train that you're on doesn't stop at that platform. You have to go to Central; go underneath the passageway; and come back. I think it's outrageous. Don't you?
Dr Stuart Sharp: Railway historian
The major event was the opening of the eastern suburbs railway which was the absolute big bomb to assist disabled people. It wasn't what it provided; it was what was omitted from it. While all the beautiful tiling looked wonderful and everything was marvellous with the new fancy ticket machines, there was not a single station provided with any access for disabled people.
Brian Smith – AITPM Member; Technical Executive, Transport Advisory & Planning WSP Australia who worked with others on the Federal Government’s “Whole of Journey” project.
People tend to focus on the service itself. They say look you know you've got a train station or a bus stop or something like that. Therefore, you have access to public transport. But there's a whole lot of things that can either go wrong or affect access to the entire network.
We consulted quite widely with disability groups all around Australia and in one particular exercise in Melbourne where we had a big workshop including a bunch of disability representatives with actual mobility impairments. One of the people who turned up was a replacement for the person who was supposed to turn up.
That person when they got to the train station the accessible train carriage that they were expecting had been replaced with one that wasn't. And so their wheelchair didn't fit in inside the train. So immediately their journey into our workshop ended right there.