The Federal Government introduced legislation in 1992 recognising that people with disabilities experience significant discrimination and disadvantage. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) set out to provide people with disabilities the same access to education, employment and transport as those without disabilities. The subsequent legislation, the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Cth) introduced requirements of all public transport providers to allow equal access for people with disabilities. This legislation recognises that limitations in accessing public transport is a significant factor in the disadvantage experienced by people with disabilities. This disadvantage encompasses lower employment rates, less access to education, higher reliance on others, lower participation in political and civil life and lessened independence.
The legislation has been recognised as playing an important role in lessening the disadvantage for people with disabilities. However, critics argue that it does not provide for the full solution to disability access requirements. A crucial requirement for accessing public transport, that is not within the legislation, is the provision of information about accessible public transport services.
This research has looked at the provision of information about accessibility by addressing the question ‘Does the available information from Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner align with real life accessibility for people in wheelchairs at selected Melbourne train stations?’. This has been approached through a mixed methods methodology. With a qualitative analysis of the legislation and related policies and a quantitative analysis of their application at three train stations in Melbourne, convergent validation was utilised to gain a deep understanding of the findings from the two methods.
The research shows that government aims to go beyond its obligations under the legislation and approach accessibility from a whole journey perspective. A significant part of this approach in the policies is to provide detailed pre-journey planning information about the accessibility of stations and services. The site visits to East Malvern, East Richmond and Holmesglen stations show that this is not occurring, and the information provided does not correspond with the accessibility of the stations.
The results of this research cannot be generalised to other stations in the train network, due to the limited number of train stations visited. However, it is clear that further research would be warranted to determine if these circumstances are faced throughout the network. It is recommended that Public Transport Victoria update the information provided through Journey Planner, and on the website, to accurately reflect the accessibility of the train stations visited. This will provide more accurate journey planning information for people in wheelchairs. If this is done across the network it will be a large step towards enabling access to the train system and increased independence for people in wheelchairs to make the decision on what journey is best suited for them.