Accessibility in Public Transport – What Other Countries Are Doing

Just like many of us, persons with disabilities also make use of public transport to get to school and work and for leisure. Having the ability to move from one [...]

Just like many of us, persons with disabilities also make use of public transport to get to school and work and for leisure. Having the ability to move from one place to another plays a crucial role in the integration of persons with disabilities into society. Greater accessibility gives these individuals more independence and encourages them to step out and engage in more community activities.

Many features have been put in place to make public transport more accessible in Singapore, for instance, barrier-free entrance with lifts at train stations, tactile guidance systems and wheelchair accessible toilets at bus interchanges, among others. Ms Poh Sho Siam, senior analyst of SPD’s advocacy team, shares with us what some countries have done to make their public transport systems friendlier to people with disabilities.

Talking Bus Stops and Talking Buses

In the city of Brighton & Hove in the United Kingdom, persons with visual impairment can make use of the ‘Talking Bus Stop’ system to access real time bus information, such as which bus stop they are at, which buses are coming and when the buses are due to arrive. The announcements are triggered by a key fob carried by the user, which will trigger audio messages from the speakers installed at the bus stops.

Cities like London, Paris and Taipei also have ‘Talking Buses’, where there are announcements and visual displays of journey information on board, making travel easier and less stressful for persons with visual or hearing impairments.

Pic showing how the "Talking Bus Stop" works with the user holding the key fob

Image source: Brighton & Hove City Council

Level and Gap-Free Boarding and Alighting

In the city of Curitiba in Brazil, bus stops are built elevated from the ground. Wheelchair users can access the bus stop by using a small elevating platform at each bus stop. Bus doors are installed with fold-down ramps, which are automatically deployed when the bus doors are open, enabling level and gap-free boarding and alighting.

Brazil's elevated bus stop feature Showing Brazil's elevated bus stop feature linked to bus

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Similar level boarding features can also be found in cities like Cape Town in South Africa and Bogotá in Columbia.

Level boarding features in Cape Town, Africa   Level bus boarding features in Cape Town, Africa

Level boarding features in Cape Town, Africa Level bus boarding features in Cape Town, Africa

Image source: (left) Cape Town in South Africa, MyCiti Bus, (right) Bogotá in Columbia, Wikimedia Commons

High Contrast Colour Train Doors

The London Underground (i.e. Tube) is easily recognisable by its signature red train doors. These contrasting red colour doors serve the purpose of allowing persons with low vision to see the train doors, and move to the doors for boarding more easily.

Take a look at the two photos below. It is much easier for a person with visual impairment to see the doors when they are painted in contrasting colours.

Train door with non-contrasting colours Contrasting Coloured train door

Image source: Flickr

Accessible Guides and Maps

To help persons with disabilities taking the London Underground plan and make their journeys, alternative formats of maps and guides such as audio maps, big print maps, black and white maps and step-free guides are available.

‘Out and about in London: My guide’ is a guide developed for use by persons with learning disabilities when they are out and about in London using public transport. The guide uses pictures and simple instructions for ease of reading and understanding.

Acessible Guide and Maps out and about in London

Image source: Brent Council, UK

Accessible Help Points

If passengers need help when using the London Underground, they can speak to a member of staff by pressing the Information button at Help Points. The large buttons are easily operable by someone who has limited dexterity, for example, using a clenched fist or open palm. Induction loops are also fitted at many of the Help Points, as well as ticket offices and platforms. Help Points are also monitored by the closed circuit televisions or CCTVs. In the event that a member of staff cannot understand a passenger (e.g. if the passenger has a speech impairment), the staff is able go to the Help Point and have a face-to-face conversation with him/her.

Acessible Help Point

Image source: Flickr

These features are not only useful to persons with disabilities, they are also beneficial to other passengers. For example, talking buses are helpful to tourists and those who are not familiar with the area, while level boarding is also convenient for the elderly and parents with strollers.

As awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities increases, we hope to see more enhancements to public facilities and amenities to make them more accessible to persons with disabilities. In addition to improvements in infrastructure, the public can play a part in making persons with disabilities feel included by showing a little more consideration and patience through simple gestures such as giving way to them in lifts, trains and buses.