Mind the Gap- providing equal accessibility to all public transport users

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The following is an open letter from Mohamed Mezghani, the Secretary General-Elect of UITP, addressed to the general public in recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Today marks the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This year’s theme is 'Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all', which should particularly resonate like a call to action for all the actors of the urban mobility sector to collaborate in finding new solutions to bridge the gap of accessibility for persons with reduced mobility.

This challenge has never been more pressing following recent growth and densifying urban environments.  Public transport operators from Europe and around the world have already been working on offering an inclusive service for all and while some have succeeded, others have yet to facilitate the independent mobility of individuals with disabilities. Indeed, due to ageing infrastructure and population in some parts of the world, some services still do not offer the physical or technological provisions necessary for people who are disabled to board transport vehicles. This reality is one important source of exclusion for individuals with reduced mobility, as it may have a direct impact on their professional or personal activities, as well as on the quality of their everyday lives.

Accessibility has always been one of the main concerns for operators and authorities of public transport. Industries have developed new technologies to address this major issue, low-floor buses being perhaps the most visible example, and decision-makers have implemented improved regulations. Users have witnessed the results of these changes in stations, transport modes and services, but also in a various range of contextually adapted solutions to meet their needs.

Public transport is by definition a vector of social inclusiveness

Indeed, flexibility is key in meeting the accessibility challenge in cities, as context and needs are disparate. While in some areas, access to financial support for operators to modernise infrastructure might be difficult, lack of realistic regulations might be a constraint for others. These specificities did not prevent countries from around the world from adopting legislations to help remove the barriers to accessibility, but these legal frameworks can reach their full potential only if all stakeholders, including national, regional and local governments and civil society are working hand-in-hand to implement the best solutions locally, and funds are made available to support public transport agencies.

It is through this approach that UITP is soon to release a report on the best practices to provide accessible public transport in Europe. Prefaced by Mr Ulrich Weber, Chair of UITP EU Committee, and Mr Morten Løkkegaard, MEP Rapporteur of the European Accessibility Act, the study presents concrete examples of actions that have been taken by close to 25 operators in 15 countries. As decision-makers in the EU are working on the European Accessibility Act, we hope that this report will encourage them in adopting the right framework to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind.

Public transport is by definition a vector of social inclusiveness. Today more than ever, we have the responsibility to keep removing barriers and ensure that persons with reduced mobility have equal access to all of the urban mobility options. UITP is actively working on advancing public transport to help the transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all and we invite all actors to join our effort in providing safe and easy journeys for all citizens.

Mohamed Mezghani

Read the letter from our post on the Euractiv blog!

Interested in further initiatives to support accessibility in public transport? The SuM4All initiative keeps accessibility high on the transport agenda.

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