Survey Reveals Lack of Accessibility to Transport

Asia-Pacific, December 1 2015

NEW ZEALAND: A recent national transport survey has revealed persons with disabilities utilise transport less than non-disabled people, and find it less easy to use. It also highlights that these access issues are impacting on people’s quality of life.

The Kiwi Transport Survey, a national web based survey, was undertaken in September and October 2015 by CCS Disability Action and TDG. The survey aimed to provide information about the way persons with disabilities and without viewed transport, how often they used it and what barriers there were in accessing transport. Transport included vehicles, public transport and footpaths.

More than 350 unimpaired people and more than 2,500 persons with disabilities responded to the survey.

CCS Disability Action Waikato Access Coordinator Gerri Pomeroy said the survey was intentionally weighted toward persons with disabilities, using the national Mobility Parking Permit database and social media networks.

Senior Transportation Researcher, Bridget Burdett, of TDG said, “The survey showed us that if the transport industry is to improve the profile of disabled people in planning we need to measure who is excluded from transport – not just who isn’t included. When we measure who is excluded we understand what is needed for people to be fully included – and what this will take.”

No matter the type of disability – cognitive, sensory or physical – Ms Burdett said people who had mobility disabilities found trains and buses – and even footpaths less easy to use than their non-disabled counterparts. The availability of public transport was also seen as a major issue for persons with disabilities, with some unsure whether the next bus would be able to transport them, or if taking public transport would be complicated and take hours.

“People’s perceptions of how easy transport is to access influences whether they use it. What we found through the Kiwi Transport Survey was that people were less likely to do “ordinary” activities like grocery shopping, going to parks or going to a café when they found transport difficult to use.”

“In the survey we asked people what they had difficulty doing as well as whether they self-identified as being disabled. Some people said they had difficulty with particular tasks – but did not see themselves as disabled, which means there are likely many more people in our communities who have mobility needs than those who are considered disabled.”

Ms Burdett said almost 750 people who responded to the web based survey were aged over 74 years – showing a clear correlation between the transport needs and barriers for persons with disabilities and older people.

CCS Disability Action and TDG also surveyed professionals working within the transport sector, with 250 respondents providing their views on transport planning and design.

Ms Burdett said while more than 80% of transport sector respondents said they thought our standards for vehicles were adequate for all users – only 40% thought we had an adequate standard for all users when it came to our footpaths. And, fewer than 10% of respondents thought New Zealand had good data about who used footpaths, who didn’t and why people didn’t use them.

“We have the least data about the number and nature of people using footpaths – and that translates to the way people use public transport as well. People don’t think using footpaths is easy so some aren’t getting out to use public transport. More than 65% of disabled people thought footpaths were difficult or not easy to use. Again, where people see difficulty they don’t use the transport mode – so there are many disabled people choosing not to move around their local community.”

Gerri Pomeroy said having easy to use, accessible transport – taxis, trains, buses and footpaths – can be an enabler for disabled people to participate in their communities.

“Government has been talking about persons with disabilities having good lives – and it must see that accessible, easy to use transport is a contributor to that goal. The main benefits to good transport can be seen in better health and social participation outcomes – yet our transport is funded solely from the transport sector – and therefore the wider implications around the availability and ease of transport can be missed. What we need is more inter-government collaboration on this issue.”

The Kiwi Transport Survey results were shared with key stakeholders in the transport industry and persons with disabilities in Wellington today. The survey is part of a wider Measuring Accessible Journeys project being led by CCS Disability Action. The project has received funding from the Ministry of Social Development’s Think Differently Fund and has the aim of developing a transport system that demonstrates inclusion.

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