Transport for People with Disability

Access to public transport is critical for people with disability to participate fully in community life and the economy. The National Disability Strategy (NDS) seeks to guide public policy across governments to ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians.

Supporting the NDS, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA) prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of disability, both to the person with a disability as well as family members, carers and friends.

The DDA also allows disability standards to be formulated in a range of areas, including public transport. These standards spell out in detail, rights and obligations under the DDA, providing greater certainty about the DDA requirements. For more information on the DDA refer to the Attorney-General's Department.

Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002, as amended

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards) as amended, are formulated by the Attorney-General under subsection 31 (1) of the DDA. The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development has responsibility for providing policy advice on the Transport Standards.

Part 34 of the Transport Standards requires the Minister, in consultation with the Attorney-General, to review their efficiency and effectiveness within 5 years after they take effect; and carry out a subsequent review every 5 years after the initial review.

The Review must consider whether discrimination has been removed as far as possible, according to the requirements for compliance set out in Schedule 1; and any necessary amendments to these Standards.

Since the release of the Transport Standards there have been two reviews—the 2007 Review and the 2012 Review. Following the second review report and Australian Government response the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development is working towards implementation of the review recommendations in collaboration with state and territory governments, public transport representative bodies and the disability sector. The major focus has been on the reform of the Transport Standards and development of The Whole Journey Guide.

Current developments

The Third Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards)

The third review of the Transport Standards is being undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development in consultation with the Attorney-General's Department. Once complete the Department will provide a final written report for consideration by the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, in consultation with the Attorney-General. The Department anticipates that the report will be provided to Government by the end of 2019.

Reform of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002

At the Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting on 2 August 2019, Ministers endorsed a forward work program for reforms to the Transport Standards. This will see Queensland and the Commonwealth working together to progress reforms through the National Accessible Transport Taskforce and National Accessible Transport Steering Committee. By January 2020, the Commonwealth will deliver improved guidance on how to use existing equivalent access provisions in the Transport Standards. Initial legislative amendments are expected to be ready in late 2021, with the reforms expected to be finalised by 2023.

For the first time since the standards were developed in 2002, Ministers endorsed principles to guide the reform process. This will ensure all jurisdictions and the Commonwealth are working together to achieve common goals as the legislation is updated. The principles place people with disability front and centre of the new reform process, recognising that access to public transport is a right for people with disability and recognise that access to public transport is not just about being compliant with standards but about providing an ongoing service for people with disability.

The second review found that the Transport Standards may not be meeting the current and future needs of people with disability or provide sufficient flexibility or guidance to providers and operators in their efforts to fulfil their obligations under the DDA. The modernisation of the Transport Standards led by National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee (NAPTAC) has been ongoing since 2015. The approach was segmented and focused on industry perspectives for amendments to the existing prescriptive framework. The new reform approach will learn from that modernisation process and re-purpose the work in line with a broader reform strategy to ensure that removing discrimination against people with disability are the central focus and the full spectrum of solutions for reform can be considered.

The four guiding principles for the reforms are:

  1. People with disability have a right to access public transport

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport pursue the removal of discrimination against people with disability first and foremost. The reform process pursued must place people with disability at the centre of their consideration.

  1. Accessibility is a service, not an exercise in compliance

An accessible public transport network anticipates and responds to the varying needs of its customers with disability. This requires thinking beyond compliance with minimum standards and toward a focus on accessibility as a service. The reform process should be open to engaging with opportunities to develop best practice, rather than minimum prescriptive standards.

  1. Solutions should meet the service needs of all stakeholders and be developed through co‑design

The new approach should learn from the past modernisation process which primarily focussed on the current individual standards and how they can be amended. This limited the range of solutions to those that fit within the existing framework. The new approach should be open to considering performance-based standards and/or functional outcomes; jurisdictional and modal specific standards; prescriptive standards; or other innovative solutions.

  1. Reforms should strive for certainty

Certainty, both legal and in relation to service provision, is important for all stakeholders. However, transport operators and providers who take only a minimum standard interpretation of the Transport Standards in fact face greater risk of failing to meet the objectives of accessible public transport. This is because minimum standards do not always achieve the best functional outcomes for people with disability and can result in an unintended discriminatory outcome.

Further information

For further information on the Transport Standards, please contact the Secretariat mailbox at: DisabilitiesTransportAccessSecretariat@infrastructure.gov.au

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Last Updated: 27 August, 2019