Open Letter to Transport and Main Roads Minister Bailey
NB: We are frustrated. Minister Bailey has not responded to our request for a timetable for making the new NGR trains accessible. They need revised braile signage, grabrails, widened corridors, accessible toilets, middle-of-train-guards etc etc
16 May 2018
RE: Scheduling date for NGR access rectification
On 27 September 2017, Queensland Rail (‘QR’) and Transport and Main Roads (‘TMR’) made a joint application to the Australian Human Rights Commission for temporary exemptions under s 55 of the DDA and s 33A.1 of the Transport Standards in relation to the New Generation Rollingstock (‘NGR’) Train Project. In the application, QR/TMR included a detailed rectification timetable.
The rectification work proposed at page 6 of the Queensland/TMR exemption application includes:
(i) Reconfiguration of the unisex accessible toilet module to meet dimensions and improve functionality in line with DSAPT
(ii) (ii) Dividing the NGR fleet of 75 trains in two, including:
a. An Interurban fleet of 35 trains (two unisex accessible toilet modules per six-car train) – adding a second unisex accessible toilet module to the MA car, so that allocated spaces in both the MB and MA have a DSAPT-compliant access path to a toilet module
b. A suburban fleet of 40 trains (no toilets) – remove the unisex accessible toilet module from the MB car
(iii) Reconfigure seating and allocated spaces in both accessible cars to meet access path width requirements between the assisted boarding door and accessible facilities
(iv) Other changes, including:
a. additional priority seating in new locations,
b. revised train signage (wording and braille),
c. additional grab/handrails and
d. additional accessible buttons and controls where appropriate to maximise functionality.
I am writing to seek your commitment to a commencement date for the NGR rectification process. The Queensland Government’s decision to run non-compliant conveyances is a disappointment to people with disabilities and contrary to the intent of the Queensland Rail Accessibility Action Plan 2014. We ask you to restore the faith of people with disabilities by restating your commitment to accessibility and an NGR rectification timetable.
In addition, we have consulted with a number of people with disabilities about their NGR experiences, and give you the following NGR feedback:
• NGR trains lack an on-board guard stationed in the middle of the train.
A middle guard can better assist people who have mobility impairments (for example, people with vision impairment, using wheelchairs, the elderly, parents with prams) to board and alight. This is a particular necessity at platforms with no staff on duty. Employing on-platform help for the life of the trains is costly and less effective.
• Defective on-board technology limits communication between passengers at the emergency help-point and the on-board guard.
More than once, passengers attempting to use the help-point have been unable to communicate with the guard.
• Braille sign positioning
Designers have placed some of the braille signage awkwardly. For example, at the on-board help-point some of the braille is below adult waist height, and below where it is on the older trains. Consistency of position on all conveyances is critical for people with vision impairments.
• Console position
The microphone on the help-point console only works if the speaker’s mouth is directly adjacent to it; again, this is not vision-impairment friendly, and could have been avoided had TMR consulted with people who have a full range of relevant impairments.
• Not fully accessible stations
Almost half of Queensland Rail’s train stations are not fully accessible, leaving many people with mobility impairments, with prams or injured unable to travel by train.
Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) applauds the Queensland Government for committing funding to support the operation and administration of a Human Rights Act for Queensland in the 2018-19 State Budget. Funding of $2.3M over four years, in addition to $616,000 a year in ongoing funding, has been allocated to the Anti-Discrimination Commission for this purpose… read more..
Section 216 of our Queensland Criminal Code makes it unlawful (i.e. a criminal offence) for any person to have intimate relations (i.e. sex!) with another person who has ‘impairment of the mind’, which is defined broadly in the Criminal Code and includes any person with an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive or neurological impairment that results in a substantial reduction in that person’s capacity for communication, social interaction or learning, and that person needing support.
That’s long-winded, so, for example, someone such as Stephen Hawking likely would have fit the definition, as would many people who have cerebral palsy that makes communication difficult without support, or intellectual disability.
Notice that there’s nothing there about decision-making capacity. Parliament framed section 216 on the assumption that if you fit the definition you are not capable of making a decision about whether you can/want to have sex. Consent, or not, does not matter.
The provision is discriminatory. It’s less favourable to many people with disability, and indeed many people who fit the definition of ‘person who has impairment of the mind’ are in relationships, including marriages, to other people who fit this definition.