The Equality Act 2010 makes it a legal requirement to ensure disabled people are not discriminated against. Transport providers have a duty to demonstrate reasonable efforts in providing facilities to assist those with disabilities and reducing, or removing altogether, barriers to access both to and within interchange zones.
The requirements set out in the Equality Act 2010 should be considered as minimum standards of provision - compliance with the letter of the regulations does not necessarily mean that an appropriate degree of accessibility has been provided. Best practice exists where movement routes for all passengers are one and the same right across the interchange zone.
Best practice is step and obstacle free access between all parts of the interchange zone wherever possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to remove all level changes within an interchange zone. This is not normally possible at interchange facilities served by rail where level change is often implicit, or at locations with physical constraints on space. However, interchange facilities or zones should be designed with the minimum number of levels possible and, where level change is unavoidable, lifts and escalators should be provided as well as steps.
Where possible and practical, the best solution is use of a step-free route for all passengers. In some situations, for example where there are spatial restrictions, step-free routes may not be the quickest or shortest route for able-bodied passengers and a much shorter stepped route may be appropriate.
It may therefore be appropriate to provide both stepped and step-free routes to maximise the efficiency of an interchange facility or zone. Where this is the case, the step-free route should not be isolated from the main passenger flows.
Attention should be given to providing step-free routes between public transport services. In many cases, platforms are accessible but the trains serving them are not, or buses cannot properly access the kerbside to offer level boarding. Ideally rail services should offer level boarding, such as on the Docklands Light Railway.
Where older train stock and/or platform heights means that this is not the case, one or more 'platform humps' spaced along platforms can provide a form of level boarding. Although this approach requires consistency of train stopping position and hump placement on platforms and may need to take account of differing stock types, this is something operators should aspire to.
Step and obstacle free routes must be clearly signed to avoid those wishing to use them having to turn back when confronted with steps or an escalator. Ideally, step-free routes will be provided in the most intuitive locations with long sightlines highlighting their suitability. However, routes should always be indicated with clear signage from key locations within the interchange zone such as platforms, bus stops or station entrances.
In addition to standard wayfinding, information on step and obstacle free routes should be provided by at least one of the following:
Tactile paths should be provided for the full length of the step and obstacle free route.
Where possible, lifts should be located directly on passenger desire lines rather than in locations that would lengthen journeys or raise personal security fears. Ideally, lifts should be located so that entry/exits have good natural surveillance.
Lift dimensions should be suitable for wheelchair users. Passengers can be reassured by knowing that the lift is on its way once called. Use of glass lift shafts and lifts allow passengers to see when the lift is coming and have the added benefit of maximising natural surveillance of those in the lift itself.
Members of staff should be available to assist people with reduced mobility. If a guide dog needs to accompany a passenger, where possible staff should help the passenger to use a route avoiding escalators. Staff assistants can then call ahead to the passenger's destination station to arrange for a member of staff to meet and assist them when they arrive.
Duties are placed on providers of transport services to make 'reasonable adjustments' so that disabled people can use the services more easily. These include: