Background: In January this year, the Government consulted with stakeholders involved in transport and disability issues to propose changes to Part Five of the Discrimination Disability Act.
Part Five of the Act sets minimum technical requirements to ensure that public transport is accessible to disabled people. In 1998, the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations were introduced to make sure that new trains would be accessible to all. But this only applied to trains introduced after 31 December 1998 and, unlike similar regulations for buses and coaches, no date was fixed to phase out old trains.
Following the consultation process and a period of research, the Government suggested 2035 as the most realistic date for extending the law to include trains. Disappointed by the Government's proposal, disability care charity Leonard Cheshire decided to launch 'All Aboard!', a campaign to bring train legislation in line with the 2017 deadline for buses.
Objectives: The campaign was based on Mind the Gap, a September 2003 report arguing that many disabled people miss out on work opportunities and have a limited social life because the transport system is inadequate. While the report aimed to make MPs aware of the problems faced by disabled travellers, 'All Aboard!' sought to raise public awareness. The public was urged to pressure the Government to bring forward the date set for the phasing out of all inaccessible trains.
How it worked Leonard Cheshire produced 30,000 postcards that were distributed to the charity's 152 services across the UK including residential care homes, day-care centres and independent living units. They were also inserted into in-house magazines such as Choice and Campus, and other professional publications such as Disability Now. The postcards displayed a simple image with the message 'Missed your train? Would you wait 30 years for the next one?'. The postcards then invited people to tell their MPs how old they would be in 2035. Time and resources were extremely limited as the charity wanted MPs to receive the postcards before the Joint Parliamentary Committee publishes its recommendations for the Draft Disability Bill at the end of April.
At the end of March, the charity's disabled head of policy John Knight handed the postcards to the Chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee, Gwyneth Dunwoody, on College Green after arriving in a horse drawn hearse displaying the message 'Died waiting for a train. R.I.P.'
Disabled people walked alongside the hearse with banners with slogans such as 'I'll be dead before I can get on a train'.
Results: Leonard Cheshire received more than 3,000 replies from the public.
The postcards could also be completed online and the campaign received coverage from a range of media including the ITV's GMTV.
The campaign is still in full swing, but there are indications that the Department of Transport will call for further consultation on the issue following a meeting with the Joint Committee on the Draft Disability Bill on 31 March.
Leonard Cheshire is extremely disappointed by this delay. "Given the Government's recent disappointing suggestion of further consultation, it remains to be seen whether such time-limited campaigns can affect change in Government policy," said Jo Campion, policy and campaigns manager at Leonard Cheshire.
However, the charity remains hopeful that increased public concern will influence the Committee before it publishes its recommendations.