People interact with supporting infrastructure during their journey. This includes ‘hard’ infrastructure such as bathroom facilities, drinking fountains, signage, seating, shelter, lighting, maps and timetables. It also includes the ‘soft’ infrastructure such as customer service staff, other public transport operator staff and people involved in their journey.People with disability have highlighted the importance of both hard and soft infrastructure during their journeys.
Hard infrastructure generally provides a framework that commuters can travel within independently. It includes facilities (bathrooms, seating etc.) and signage to assist them along their journey.
But the soft ‘people’ infrastructure is also key to a successful journey. Customer service staff, drivers and other support people often make or break the travel experience.
Aspirations for this journey part
- Supporting infrastructure allows people to travel safely, informed and comfortably.
- Where assistance is required, there are people available, trained and eager to help.
How can we achieve this?
3.8.1 Supporting the journey
The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport address a number of issues related to supporting infrastructure for public transport users. However, integrated planning and delivery of user needs is necessary to ensure seamless accessibility for the whole public transport journey. This should include, among other things, addressing specific needs in relation to seating, shelter, signage, wayfinding, drinking fountains, Wi-Fi, charging/power points, food and beverage, bathrooms and retail options.
3.8.2 Precinct planning and coordination
Stations and interchanges often function as the centre of many communities and are important nodes in a neighbourhood. Where public transport nodes sit within a precinct, such as a retail, health or sporting precinct, planners and managers should consider how supporting facilities can help increase accessibility across the whole journey.
Wayfinding is important to enable people to complete their journey. Wayfinding strategies and plans should be considered, especially in complex, busy interchange environments. These plans need to consider multiple means of wayfinding to cater for people's varied information needs (including static and dynamic forms). People with disability should be involved in creating wayfinding strategies and plans.
Excerpt from submission on the draft guide—Vision Australia
“Step-Hear signs are audio signposts which are detected by either a smartphone app via Bluetooth or by radio frequency via a wrist-worn activator. Successful trials of these audio signs have been carried out in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall and King George Square bus station. At the bus station the signs identify boarding gates and various significant wayfinding decision points. The mall signs identify where people are in the mall and identify the escalators leading down to the Queen Street bus station”
3.8.4 Customer service staff
People with disability have highlighted that access to customer service staff is often very important to their journey. These staff should be available within the station/interchange environment in a relevant, known area, ideally somewhere near an entrance to the public transport node.
There are examples in retail and banking where customer service has shifted to a proactive, concierge model where customers are offered individualised service at the start of their interaction, rather than people just seeking customer service staff when they have an issue. This may involve training frontline staff to enhance understanding of respectful service, together with an understanding of the broad range of disability that they may come across in their daily transport roles43.
Staff uniforms should make them easily identifiable in a busy environment. They should be well informed on accessibility in the station or interchange and its surrounding area, and their first task should be to determine the specific access needs of the customer, rather than making assumptions which can often delay or lengthen the journey.
3.8.5 Security matters
Security is an increasingly important part of our national transport infrastructure. Ensuring security requirements support people with disability requires careful consideration and planning by staff with appropriate skills and training.
3.8.6 Positive use of feedback
People with disability and other transport users should be encouraged to provide feedback about problems they experience as this helps transport operators improve accessibility. Online feedback is quick and current. Sydney Trains uses Twitter to collect feedback, which is an excellent example of this. Alternative forms of providing feedback such as letters or facsimiles should also be provided where a user doesn"t or can"t use the internet.
Another effective way to gain and collate such feedback is the Snap Send Solve app. Local government authorities use this across the country to identify access issues so that they can be dealt with promptly. The app user takes a picture of the issue, adds any comments, and forwards it to the relevant local government authority. This is determined by the location of the issue logged on the app.
3.8.7 Bathroom facilities
Accessible facilities are required in any location where toilets are provided44 and should be kept clean, sanitary, available and safe.
Factors that need to be considered to achieve this may include the bathroom setting (for example, within a facility or elsewhere), staffing, maintenance and cleaning, lighting and security arrangements, and adequate space for carers.
Careful consideration needs to be given to the use of Master Locksmith Access Key (MLAK) bathroom facilities. These do not necessarily aid accessibility as not everyone who needs to use the facilities has access to a key. If there are justifiable reasons for using MLAK, customer service staff should carry keys to unlock facilities for users and accessible information needs to be provided at the toilet so customers know how to locate customer service staff.
Bluetooth beacons are being installed and trialled in a range of major transport hubs to guide people who are blind or with low vision through these indoor spaces. The beacons interact with apps on people's smart phones and push information to the app as users travel past the beacons.
Figure 15—Bluetooth beacons push information to travellers’ smart devices
|Assistance animal toilet facilities
A good example of thinking beyond compliance is Brisbane Airport's assistance animal toilet facilities. People who travel accompanied by an assistance animal have highlighted that transiting through an airport can be difficult if they need to toilet their animal. They need to exit the building, toilet the animal then go through security screening again, a time delay that may not be appropriate within their journey.
Brisbane Airport has dedicated toileting facilities within the sterile area of both its domestic and international terminals, allowing the animal to be toileted without leaving the building. Sand or real grass is used, as many assistance animals will not toilet on artificial turf.
Figure 16—Assistance animal toileting facility at Brisbane's International Airport
An initiative acknowledged as best practice model for improving the social inclusion of people with disability who are unable to use regular accessible public toilets is the Changing Places initiative. This initiative45 incorporates a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, tracking hoist system, enough space for the user and a carer, a safe and clean environment, and a centrally placed peninsula toilet.
Security considerations can be informed by crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)48. This is a multi-disciplinary approach that looks at the built, social and administrative environment to influence and mitigate potential negative offenders.
“If a journey does not provide a continuously accessible path from beginning to end, then it cannot be used, regardless of how many pieces of compliant infrastructure exist along the way”, quote by Cat Smith, Chief Executive Officer of VCOSS, 2011.
43 Brisbane City Council submission on the draft guide.
44 Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002, Part 15.
47 Carers NSW and Carers Victoria submission on the draft guide.