Reasonable Adjustments & Managing Expectations
In a world where companies are looking to save costs, increase or even just maintain profit margins there is an ever increasing rush to automation, to machines that require no tea breaks, no annual leave, no pension plan, to be used to replace the acceptable face of the company its employs!
A prime example of this is our transport infra structure, especially the railways.
In today’s franchise world, the Department for Transport (DfT) in its franchise documents that have been the center of the news recently, they “REQUIRE” the winning bidder who will operate a train company for between 10-18 years to close booking offices or reduce opening hours, to introduce machines that, and I quote, “provide the full range of tickets on offer to the public”
At first glance this might seem a sensible policy, but what if you are disabled? Either a wheeler or one like me who is sensory impaired. These machines and station closures can be like the “kiss of death” severely restricting our options and lives
The DfT in a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) response confirm that they do NOT set any form of specification for the existing machines or the next generation of machines they are demanding be installed. They further confirm that the installation of such machines is the responsibility of the Train Operating Company (TOC).
Further discussions with TOC’s currently operating rail franchises have revealed that there are only TWO machine manufacturers, and that the costs of making ticket machines “user friendly” for the disabled would require a huge financial investment to develop and install the next generation and an even larger investment to roll these wonder machines out across the network to replace machines already in place.
It’s clear that the TOC’s have tendered for and offered cash to the DfT in return for operating these franchises, which return substantial profits (East Coast Main line over £200 million in 2010-11) which goes to their shareholders, and investors, the latter often being our pension funds so on the one hand we don’t want to harm our own potential retirement income or investments but as a disabled person I want and I demand better access.
This has not been raised before so the costs have not in any way been factored into the bidding process either by the TOC’s or the DfT which I would suggest is a glaring error but in reality it’s more a case of out of sight, out of mind!
So just how do we manage the expectations of the disabled in a fear and reasonable way, in a way that gives us the access we need but access that doesn’t effectively break the bank?
I suspect it will eventually come down to a compromise there really isn’t a problem, just a challenge we haven’t yet confronted and or resolved!
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) are working hard behind the scenes to developed and use technology for the benefit of all passengers but its primary goal is the disabled passenger.
They are actively working on some solutions that will dramatically improve the travel experience for the disabled passenger, the downside is this work is complex and doesn’t happen over night so we might I would suggest expect to see major changes in 2-4 years, that I know sounds like an age but in reality its “imminent”
In the last 5 years the numbers of disabled rail cards issued has doubled, but the number of journeys taken has multiplied by a factor of almost 6 that’s a massive increase and makes the TOC’s aware of our existence and that we are passengers, the off peak bum on the seat which is ultimately where they make money, they want to fill off peak trains.
In managing our own expectations and requiring the TOC’s and the DfT to “make reasonable adjustments for our disabilities” how much energy should we expend fighting them, rather than working with them, educating them as RNIB has done with the banks to get the ATM machines to “talk” so we reach a reasonable level of 1 in 4 machines accessible to the blind, the dyslexic etc instead of the current 1 in 1000 that the banks offer us. This situation will be rectified from any time now and rolled out over the next 2 years or so making life so much easier for the VI customer to have a life and not have to wait in line in a bank for cash.
I am not an apologist for the TOC’s or the DfT who on a regular basis I talk to, yell at cagoule and even woo in order to get improvements for the disabled community.
With a passion I want the TOC’s to understand that a deaf person cannot use a radio help point to ask for help, that a blind person cannot use a touch screen ticket machine to purchase a ticket, that often stations have poor or no phone reception so the ability to call for help (police ambulance etc) or simply call a cab when a station is unmanned is not a luxury its an essential, a vital tool that allows us to LIVE rather than exist
I would at this point amidst all this doom and gloom offer a suggestion that there is an elegant solution, one which already exists , one that is in the main a secret to both staff and the traveling public.
The DfT mandates that all TOC’s for example produce and publish what in the industry is known as a D~PPP but to you and me it’s the Disabled Passenger Protection Policy (plan). This has to be approved by the DfT before a TOC can operate a franchise, however, once approved unless the TOC makes substantive changes they DfT never sees it again during the life of the franchise, they don’t monitor it or require its modification to meet changes within the world, that without a doubt will occur over a 15 or more year period.
The TOC for their part don’t exactly go out of their way to let the public know that this piece of gold is there and its there to protect the disabled passenger so for example if the ticket office is closed, or you are unable to purchase a ticket due to your disability, it entitles you to travel without a ticket and without any penalty! It also mandates that you can either buy a ticket on board or at your destination without penalty and at whatever discounted (railcard) price it would have been available to you at the station.
The TOC’s all make this available but its not easy to find, try looking at a train company web suite its not up front, enter DPPP into the web site search engine it will in most cases come back with “ nothing found”
Trust me when I say it is there and if you ask any train company’s customer services department they can and must make it available to you. Most companies have it in standard & large print available to send out, they may ask for time to provide it in easyread, Braille or Audio and I would suggest “reasonable” is 7 -10 working days.
there is no reason why the disabled traveler can or should be penalized, get a copy of the D~PPP carry it when traveling as the staff are often unaware of their own company rules!
Here are some of the most used sites, data provided by
Rennie Consulting, thanks Sarah
First Great western – http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/Your-journey/Assisted-travel/DPPP
Network Rail – http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/7617.aspx