The 17th January will see the first Disabled Access Day in Britain which will focus on encouraging disabled people and their family and friends to visit somewhere that they have never been before. In essence it is about disabled people getting out and having access to venues and events that are available in our society.
Very much in keeping with this idea of encouraging and ensuring that disabled people are able to access venues and events is the DAA Transport project. Over a two year period in the life of the DAA, one of the many successful projects has been the ‘safe journey’ travel support card, headed up by Blackpool based Steering Group member Stephen Brookes.
The original idea was to provide a potentially universally free card which disabled people could use on public transport, when shown to drivers or other responsible staff, to identify their requirements to things such as access and destinations. However, as the project has progressed and the involvement of various other groups and organisations has increased, projected outcomes have changed.
A very important change, and significant ‘win’ for disabled people, has been the increased delivery of disability awareness training. In Blackpool Stephen has been able to work increasingly closely with Blackpool Transport management and staff to involve disabled people in delivering face to face disability awareness sessions for all bus and tram drivers within the existing legal DCPC training process.
The ethos is summed up by Bryan Lindop, Blackpool Transport’s Customer Services Coordinator who says, “We have always been very much aware that we are not just a transport operator, we are a mainstay of our local community. We have within our grasp the potential to enhance people’s outlook and wellbeing by enabling those members of the community who would otherwise be unable to access the things we as individuals take for granted, to lead independent lives. We do what we do, not because we have to, but because we want to. It’s a case of looking at what we do every day from a slightly different perspective and working out how to make it better. The world isn’t a perfect place, but we can all play our part to change it. For many, transport isn’t just a way of getting from A to B; it can be a lifeline for those who may only have previously observed the world through a window; transport operators can take that person beyond the window, into a world of participation that we can all share together.”
Chris Davies, Health, Safety and Training Manager at Blackpool Transport said, “We pride ourselves in our pro-active approach to all our training and in particular disability awareness. This ensures that drivers are not only legally compliant but fully understand their moral responsibilities. Having introduced guest speakers as part of our DCPC courses has given drivers/conductors the opportunity to interact and share views with disabled customers. Listening to feedback from both staff and guests it would appear that this interaction has brought about a positive change in attitudes and behaviours of both staff and users as they come to understand the challenges faced by each other”.
As part of the group of disabled people delivering the sessions, Stephen Brookes has been surprised at the success of the work. “I hoped we would be listened to, but the reality has been a real mind set change for all of us. Disabled people are now aware of the some of the problems faced by drivers and the various issues they face over such as wheelchair space”.
Recently appointed Managing Director of Blackpool Transport, Jane Cole, said “I am delighted that the people who work at Blackpool Transport have been proactively engaging transport users with disabilities. We are a transport operator that embraces all customers who want to use our services or influence our thinking about the products we provide. I have personally attended almost every course we have run to endorse my commitment to the training and engage our employees on its importance. Everyone who has attended the training has given very positive feedback about the immense impact it has had on changing their thoughts and behaviour going forward.”
This project truly is a real demonstration of just how much can be achieved through joint working between disabled people and the day to day areas of business. The DAA fully endorses this approach to working, and wants to celebrate the impact work like this has on the lives of disabled people. Enabling better life outcomes for everyone is, after all, what the DAA is about!
The project is continuing to develop and new outcomes will be forthcoming during the year.