Reform of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002

Latest Updates from the National Accessible Transport Taskforce

Background

At the Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting on 2 August 2019, Ministers endorsed a forward work program for reforms to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (the Transport Standards). The Queensland and Australian Governments are working together to progress reforms through the National Accessible Transport Taskforce and National Accessible Transport Steering Committee. The National Accessible Transport Taskforce will provide regular online updates as the reforms progress. In 2020, the Australian Government 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.

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 Disability Discrimination Act 1992. 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.

Guiding principles for the reform

For the first time since the Transport Standards were developed in 2002, Ministers endorsed principles to guide the reform process. This will ensure all jurisdictions and the Australian Government 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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Governance arrangements for the reform

The National Accessible Transport Steering Committee (Steering Committee) oversees the reform at high level and ensures a national perspective is provided to the work. This acknowledges that the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and its accompanying disability standards, as maintained by the Australian Government, are the primary legal force for the elimination of disability discrimination. 

The Steering Committee is comprised of senior officials from the Attorney General’s Department, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Queensland, and South Australia and is chaired by the Department. The Steering Committee reports to the Transport Infrastructure Senior Officials’ Committee and provides oversight and direction to the National Accessible Transport Taskforce (the Taskforce). 

The Taskforce, chaired by Queensland, is comprised of technical experts from governments, industry and the disability community. This recognises that state, territory and local governments have expertise and close relationships with industry and people with disability. Taskforce members include:

  • Accessibility advisors and disability advocates
  • Airlines for Australia and New Zealand
  • Attitude Foundation
  • Attorney General’s Department (Australian Government)
  • Australasian Railway Association
  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Australian Taxi Industry Association
  • Bus Industry Confederation
  • David Mason Consulting
  • Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Australian Government)
  • Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (SA)
  • Department of Transport (VIC)
  • Department of Transport and Main Roads (QLD)
  • Disabled People’s Organisations Australia
  • Equality Building Pty Ltd
  • Public Transport Authority of Western Australia (WA)
  • Queensland Rail
  • Queensland Tourism Industry Council
  • Royal Automobile Club of Queensland
  • Spinal Life Australia
  • Transdev
  • Transport for NSW (NSW)

Contact details

For further information on the reform of the Transport Standards, please contact: DisabilitiesTransportAccessSecretariat@infrastructure.gov.au or GPO Box 594, CANBERRA ACT 2601

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Last Updated: 22 May, 2020