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Application for broad public transport accessibility exemption should be denied

An application to exempt public transport operators from meeting accessibility standards for people with disability should be denied, says the Victorian Council of Social Service.

The Australian Railways Association has asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to exempt public transport operators from meeting accessibility standards. VCOSS CEO Emma King says that if granted, the exemption would make it harder for people with disability to get around and participate fully in community life.

“All Victorians, including people with disability, should have the same right to use public transport. People with disabilities need accessible public transport to help them get to work, school or services and to stay connected with family and friends,” said Emma King.

“We are calling for the Australian Human Rights Commission not to grant the Australian Railways Association and its members this exemption to the federal Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.”

“This exemption would lower requirements on public transport providers, including Metro Trains, V/Line and Yarra Trams, to make sure their services are accessible.”

“The standards exist under the Disability Discrimination Act, which aims to reduce discrimination against people with disability and ensure equal rights. But this exemption could make it harder for people with disability to use train and tram services, contributing to discrimination and inequality.”

“VCOSS is especially concerned at how broad the application for exemption is. The request appears to be nation-wide and industry-wide. It seeks to exempt a large number of public transport operators and applies even where operators don’t need it, because standards are already being met, as well as to new or upgraded vehicles and infrastructure that we can reasonably expect to meet standards.”

The VCOSS submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission recommends instead that individual operators apply for exemptions that are reasonable in their individual circumstances, while maintaining the integrity of the standards as having national, industry-wide application.

“If the Australian Human Rights Commission considers granting any part of the exemption, we suggest it apply in much more limited circumstances and include additional responsibilities on operators to provide alternative transport options for people with disability to reach the places they need to get to.”