How can we offer equity of access for people with disabilities?

Freedom to get around

People with disabilities deserve the ability to move safely, conveniently and enjoyably around Yarra, e.g. to roll on mobility scooters to shops, activities or their friends houses, or to travel further with level access public transport stops.

Former public transport minister Tom Roper says the rate of progress is too slow. Image credit: ABC News, Bridget Rollason.

People with disabilities include people with:

  • limited mobility, e.g. use a cane or wheelchair,
  • neuro-cognitive disorders,
  • neuro-developmental and/or intellectual disabilities,
  • blindness or low vision, and
  • deafness or hard of hearing.

Status of infrastructure

Unfortunately, many footpaths in Yarra are too narrow, obstructed, sloping, bumpy, or discontinuous. In addition, most public transport stops aren’t level access. Neighbouring councils have similarly poor infrastructure, leading to protests, such as this in the City of Moreland:

Campaign for level access tram stops. Image credit: Facebook.

The poor status of infrastructure was highlighted by the Victorian Auditor-General ‘s Office report on accessibility of tram services in October 2020.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) requires that all tram stops must be fully compliant with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT) by 31 December 2022 and all trams must be DSAPT compliant by 31 December 2032.

Victorian Auditor-General ‘s Office report on accessibility of tram services

Tram services are not meeting the accessibility needs of passengers with mobility restrictions. DoT’s lack of a finalised strategy or a funded plan means it does not know when all tram services will be fully DDA and DSAPT compliant.

Victorian Auditor-General ‘s Office report on accessibility of tram services
Image credit: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office

State Government policy

The Victorian State Government has released multiple policies and action plans, but has failed to deliver the infrastructure required.

The plan has an admirable vision and statement of priorities, including universal design and improved access for public transport.

Key priorities in State Disability Plan 2017-2020. Image credit: Victoria State Government, highlight from Streets Alive Yarra.

Streets Alive Yarra supports the principle of universal design that is highlighted in the plan, and calls on the State Government to actually implement the principle, including:

  • fund the Department of Transport to upgrade all public transport stops to level access by 2030, and
  • fund Local Government to upgrade all footpaths so they have a minimum unobstructed width of 2 metres, are smooth, level, and continue at grade when crossing minor side streets.

Yarra policy

The City of Yarra has adopted an Access and Inclusion Policy 2018-2024.

Yarra Access and Inclusion Strategy. Image credit: City of Yarra.

The document includes two important strategies, but unfortunately the Action Plan part of the document fails to translate these strategies into actions that will actually deliver effective outcomes.

Selected strategies. Image credit: City of Yarra.

What Yarra can do

The City of Yarra can clarify key elements of policy, and then fund improvements via LAPMs, including:

  • Footpaths should have a minimum unobstructed width of 2 metres, increasing to 4.5 metres on busy shopping streets
  • Footpaths should be smooth and level, with a paving and texture that is different to the asphalt used on roads
  • Footpaths on collector streets and shopping streets should continue at grade, i.e. be continuous, when crossing side streets
  • Cross-overs, e.g. for driveways, should not impact on, detract from or alter the slope of footpaths or the observable priority of footpaths
  • Triple number of parking bays that are reserved for people with disabilities, across the municipality

Take action

Sign this petition from the Disability Resource Centre to the state government:

Guidance from the Netherlands

Guidance from MRCagney

Bridget Burdett from MRCagney has published guidance on measures for inclusive access in transport:

Image credit: MRCagney

Design guides

Learn more from this collection of design guides; including the video below from ISEMOA and Cities for All; or the “Cycling for everyone” guide from ARUP and Sustrans:

Join us

Let’s build a beautiful, liveable and accessible city