Disabled bus passengers ignored

By: David Goeldner

A bus information system chosen by Queensland’s transport ministry doesn’t meet disability needs, claims QBIC

A real time information system chosen by Queensland’s transport ministry for the state’s bus network falls short of required standards to meet the needs of disabled passengers, according to the Queensland Bus Industry Council (QBIC).

QBIC Executive Director David Tape says the recent launch of the NextBus system is a ‘major disappointment’ for the disability sector.

He says the Queensland Government’s decision to adopt NextBus in favour of a previously trialled alternate system in Logan, south of Brisbane in 2012, demonstrated a lack of consideration for the disabled.

Tape refutes the Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson’s assertion that the NextBus system is part of a ‘stronger plan for a brighter future to improve public transport for Queensland’.

"This particular system doesn’t provide accessibility for people with hearing or vision impairment," Tape says.

"At the moment it doesn’t have the capability for audio or screen monitors so people can see or hear where the next stop is."

Tape says that while the previous, now discarded, real time trials may have proven to be expensive, they were welcomed by the disability sector.

"At what cost is the Government saying they are improving transport when it is not rolling out clear transport options for all Queenslanders, especially those with disabilities," asks Tape.

Tape says that while the cost of the system now being implemented in Queensland may be initially cheaper, the cost will climb as extras – such as monitors and audio capability – are ‘bolted on’.

Tape’s concerns were recently raised at the quarterly Accessibility Reference Group forum, convened by Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads.

"I raised my concern that people with disabilities may be disadvantaged by the system that’s being introduced, and I was told by the Chair of the forum it would be investigated."

Tape says the next meeting of the Forum is due in March 2015, by which time the NextBus system’s rollout is scheduled for completion.

"We are going from one system – albeit an expensive one – to a less expensive system at the expense of people with a disability.

"Somewhere along the line if this system is to be enhanced with audio monitor capability for people travelling with a disability, then it will come at a cost."

He says this might turn out to be the same cost as the system already trialled that came with support from disability groups, and has now been discarded.

Tape has queried what the bolt-on costs will be compared with the cost of the previous trial system.

"Until these enhancements are done, people with a disability are not getting the true value of a real time system," he says.

Tape says any real time system must have on-board audio announcement system for vision impairment.

"For the hearing impaired there should be monitors making visual announcements for the next stop," he says.

"These may seem like little things, but for people with disabilities, these make travelling on public transport much easier.

"And it gives the frail-aged the confidence to travel on public transport."

Tape says on-board audio and visual announcements would also prove a boon for tourists, giving visitors confidence and security while travelling on Queensland’s public transport system.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook