LUMS research contributes to Parliamentary Inquiry

A cropped image showing a man in a wheelchair using a ramp to get on a train

Academics from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) have contributed to a Parliamentary inquiry focusing on how UK transport can become more accessible to disabled people.

Using extensive data and insight based on their research into the travel and tourism experiences of disabled customers, Dr Leighanne Higgins and Dr Killian O’Leary submitted a response to the Government’s call for evidence to help the Transport Committee examine the effectiveness of current legislation that should ensure transport providers make services accessible, how this legislation is currently enforced and any gaps that need to be filled.

Their written submission calls for legal reform of current passenger assistance services and was published online yesterday by Parliament’s Transport Committee.

Within their submission, Dr Higgins and Dr O’Leary share the findings of the research they’ve been conducting since 2016, which uncovers four core problems with current passenger assistance systems in the UK:

  1. The mishandling of accessible equipment
  2. The lack of proactive systems for delayed/ cancelled transport
  3. A lack of customer service in dealing with accessible passengers
  4. A lack of continuity across passenger assistance networks.

They also include voices of disabled passengers they’ve engaged with during their research who have encountered difficulties when using public transport, such as this powerful excerpt of an interview with Miles*:

“I was travelling by plane, and they weren’t happy with loading my electric wheelchair despite it having an airline-approved battery. They decided to offload it, but the thing is you take my wheelchair from me, it is like taking my legs from me.”

Dr Killian O’Leary said: “Our research suggests the current legislation set out by travel authorities and government is highly ineffective in practice, with disabled travellers continuing to experience severe inequalities when it comes to accessing aviation, train, and bus transport services.”

Dr Leighanne Higgins said: “As researchers focusing on inequality and inaccessibility, we have the privilege of meeting and working with fantastic people who often face huge barriers to accessing everyday services and products that the able-bodies among us take for granted.

“Ultimately, we conduct research to try to bring about positive change, so we are delighted that our findings have been read and valued by the Transport Committee. We will keep a close watch on how the Inquiry progresses, and hope that the outcome will deliver real improvements for disabled passengers in the very near future.”

You can read the written submission in full, published online by Parliament's Transport Committee.

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