MPs, transport executives and local government chiefs have been told by people with learning difficulties how accessible transport can transform their lives.
More than 100 people with learning difficulties – all service-users supported by the charity the Brandon Trust – had called in a report for improved access to public transport.
Their report, 100 Voices on Transport, was discussed this week at a reception in the House of Commons.
Guests heard how the service-users who contributed to the research believed public transport was too expensive and inaccessible, while they were scared of being abused, mistreated and disrespected by transport staff and other passengers.
Among the report’s recommendations was an end to time restrictions on concessionary travel passes, which often mean disabled people cannot use those passes to travel to work before 9.30am.
The report also calls for better training for transport staff, easy-read timetables and complaints procedures, and more cameras on buses to capture abusive behaviour.
And it says there should be more travel and transport training for people with learning difficulties, like the Brandon Trust’s own Travel Buddy scheme in Bristol, which uses people with learning difficulties to support service-users who want to learn to travel independently.
Joe Jones, a London-based service-user, told guests at the reception: “Without transport, our lives become far more localised and people can end up just staying at home and being isolated.”
He said: “Like a lot of people, we need transport to go to work, to socialise, to visit relatives, even to go on holiday.
“Sadly, a lot of my learning disabled colleagues throughout the country have found a lot of problems which they encounter when travelling.”
The disabled blogger and campaigner Kaliya Franklin told the reception how travelling on public transport during the Paralympics had been “like Alice going through the looking-glass” and “like a Utopia”, because of the temporary access improvements made by Transport for London for London 2012.
She said it was like “the access fairy had come along and sprinkled magic fairy dust across London” for the duration of the games, and had been a “tantalising glimpse of how things could be, of how things should be”.
She added: “Employment would be easier, participating as full citizens would be easier, everything would become more inclusive.”
Charlotte Leslie, the Conservative MP who hosted the reception, said the report contained “some very powerful recommendations for how policy-makers, transport-providers, local authorities and the community at large can make life easier for people with learning difficulties, to enable them to contribute to our society.”