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Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002

The first five year review

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 were made under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and commenced on 23 October 2002. The first review of the Standards and the Australian Government response were released on 3 June 2011. Copies are available from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website.

What are the Transport Standards?

The DDA seeks to eliminate discrimination against people with disability as far as possible. The Transport Standards provide transport operators and providers with certainty about their obligations under the DDA. Compliance with the relevant requirements will provide operators with protection from a complaint of unlawful discrimination.

Access to public transport is crucial to the ability of people with disability, and their families and carers, to participate fully in community life. The Transport Standards also benefit many older Australians and parents with infants in prams who use public transport services.

What do the Transport Standards do?

Providers and operators of public transport must comply with the minimum accessibility requirements set out in the Transport Standards for vehicles (such as buses), infrastructure (such as waiting areas) and premises (such as bus terminals). Since 23 October 2002, all new public transport systems must comply with the Standards. Existing public transport must progressively become accessible over a 30 year period.

The Transport Standards apply to the following forms of transport:

  • trams
  • trains
  • buses and coaches
  • taxis
  • ferries, and
  • aeroplanes.

The Transport Standards set out minimum standards for features of premises, including:

  • access paths
  • manoeuvring areas
  • ramps and boarding devices
  • allocated spaces
  • handrails
  • doorways, controls, symbols and signs
  • the payment of fares, and
  • provision of information.

Frequently asked questions

How can I complain about a breach of the Transport Standards?

If you believe that an operator or provider has breached the Standards, you can lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Commission has the power to investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints of disability discrimination. If the conciliation is unsuccessful, you may commence legal proceedings in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Federal Court. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s website provides information on how lodge a complaint.

Can a transport operator or provider obtain an exemption from the Transport Standards?

An exemption allows a transport operator or provider to lawfully not comply with the usual requirements in the Standards for a set period. The Commission has the power to grant these exemptions. Exemption decisions are published on the Commission’s website.

Exemptions are not to be for more than five years and can be subject to terms and conditions. The Commission’s decision about whether to grant an exemption from the Standards is reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

What is the defence of ‘unjustifiable hardship?

Under the Transport Standards, a provider or operator can use ‘unjustifiable hardship’ as a defence against a claim that they have discriminated against someone unlawfully. The Transport Standards require providers and operators to comply to the maximum extent not involving unjustifiable hardship. Factors that a court is to consider when assessing whether unjustifiable hardship exists include:

  • costs
  • exceptional operational, technical or geographic factors
  • resources reasonably available
  • likely benefits or detriment of compliance
  • action plans developed
  • consultations involving people with disability, and
  • good faith efforts to comply.

How does the compliance timetable work?

The compliance timetable phases in accessibility requirements for existing public transport systems so as not to impose an undue burden on operators and providers. Public transport is expected to become more accessible as vehicles, infrastructure and premises are upgraded or replaced with new items that conform with the Transport Standards. The Transport Standards include an incremental compliance timetable for existing facilities over 30 years, with milestones at the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth and thirtieth year. For example, by the end of 2012, 10 years after the Transport Standards commenced, operators and providers will

have to ensure full compliance with the relevant requirements in relation to surfaces handrails and grabrails, gateways and vending machines. By the end of 2022, all vehicles, infrastructure and premises (except for trams and trains) must fully comply with the Transport Standards.

Note that access requirements for public transport buildings have moved from the Transport Standards to the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards, which commenced operation on 1 May 2011.

How are the Transport Standards evaluated?

The Transport Standards require that the Minister for Transport and Regional Services review their

effectiveness and efficiency in consultation with the Attorney-General within five years of commencement. Subsequent reviews must occur every five years thereafter. The review must consider whether discrimination has been removed as far as possible according to the compliance requirements, and whether amendments to the Standards are needed.

What forms of transport are excluded from compliance with the Transport Standards?

The development of the Transport Standards aimed to achieve a balance between removing, as far as possible, discrimination against people with disability, and ensuring that industry was not unduly burdened. The Transport Standards apply to the full range of public transport vehicles, premises and infrastructure with the following exclusions.

Limousines, hire cars and charter boats

Limousines, hire cars and charter boats have been exempted from the Standards. They provide a pre-booked and unique service, which is unlikely to constitute a 'public transport service' for the purposes of the Standards.

Dedicated school bus services

A dedicated school bus service is defined in the Standards to mean 'a service that operates to transport primary or secondary students to or from school or for other school purposes', during the time it is in operation as a school bus service. During times when a service has a mixed clientele (including non-students such as ordinary members of the public), it is not a dedicated service and the exclusion does not apply.

Small aircraft

The exclusion relates to small aircraft with fewer than 30 seats. There are many technical problems associated with making a small aircraft accessible, such as the size of the aircraft cabin, insufficient luggage space and limited weight carrying capacity.

Airports that do not accept regular public transport services

Many small airports do not have regular staff and are mostly used by non-commercial or charter flights. Many are not licensed to accommodate regular public transport services. Also, a large proportion of airports do not generate the volume of revenue necessary for capital improvements.

The above information has been obtained from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website