Australians living with disability are being forced to put up with substandard public transport options after state governments across the country failed to achieve accessibility deadlines set by the federal government, advocates say.

The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport bill was passed by the federal government 20 years ago and called for all train and tram stations to be fully compliant with accessibility standards by the end of 2022.

In all, Australia has 960 train stations. By 2012, 55 percent of stations were supposed to be compliant with standards such as lifts, stairs, access paths and ramps. By 2017, that increased to 90 percent, with a target of 100 percent compliance by December last year.

Accessibility Assessment

Speaking to ABC News, Sterling Infrastructure, the company that assesses the accessibility of stations and walkways around trains, only 50 percent of the country’s network has paths, ramps, toilets and tactile tiling that are independently accessible.

Issues range from lifts being out of order and ramps being too steep, to parking issues and a lack of audible announcements. Poor signage and inadequate staffing levels were also cited as issues.

In some cases, this has meant those living with disability have been forced to use the footplates of their wheelchairs to prop open train doors while others have had to crawl upstairs because of broken or non-existent lifts.

State Versus State

Sterling Infrastructure told the news site that the degree of severity differs from state to state. Around a third of train and ferry stations aren’t independently accessible in NSW and around 40 percent of Queensland Rail and Western Australia’s train stations not meeting the set target.

In Victoria, 73 percent of tram stops don’t meet the accessibility standards.

Speaking to the same media organisation, National Inclusive Transport Advocacy Network (NITAN) deputy chair, Richard Witbreuk, said it was very isolating to have a system such as a public transport network that doesn’t work for everybody.

He said being unable to properly access public transport meant access to jobs was cut off and left people dependent on others to help with shopping or meeting up with friends.

Federal Response

In response, a federal government spokesperson told the media group there had been some major improvements and investment in accessible public transport in recent years, and that it is working on reforms to the 2002 legislation likely to be released later this year.