Five people with disabilities appointed to public transport boards

Shane Ross wants views of those with personal experience of disability to be heard

Minister for Transport  Shane Ross with  newly appointed directors  to public transport boards Liam O’Rourke (CIE), Suzy Byrne (Irish Rail), Elaine Howley (Dublin Bus) and Kevin Kelly (National Transport Authority). Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Transport Shane Ross with newly appointed directors to public transport boards Liam O’Rourke (CIE), Suzy Byrne (Irish Rail), Elaine Howley (Dublin Bus) and Kevin Kelly (National Transport Authority). Photograph: Alan Betson

 

People with disabilities should have the same right to easily travel on public transport as able-bodied people, a newly appointed director to Irish Rail has said.

Suzy Byrne is one of five people with disabilities appointed to the State’s main transport companies and organisations by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

The Minister said he wanted to make the appointments to ensure that the views of those with direct personal experience of disabilities are heard.

Ms Byrne said she has to “give notice” before she gets the train, which was not acceptable.

“If able-bodied people can make decisions to get on trains and use transport, then people with disabilities should have the same rights as everybody else and we should work towards that,” she said.

Encouraged

Ms Byrne said people should be encouraged to “complain and speak up for themselves and not be afraid to demand their right to use transport”.

The five people to be appointed, with some pending Cabinet approval, are: Diarmuid Corry to the board of Bus Éireann, Liam O’Rourke to CIÉ, Kevin Kelly to the National Transport Authority, Ms Byrne to the board of Irish Rail and Elaine Howley to the board of Dublin Bus. The candidates all came through the Public Appointments Service.

Mr Corry is an electronic engineer, independent consultant and business adviser, and was also co-founder of aerospace company Acra Control, which was bought by the US-based Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 2011.

Mr O’Rourke is an accountant and former finance manager with the Irish Wheelchair Association. Mr Kelly is head of policy, advocacy and campaigns at the National Council for the Blind Ireland, while Ms Byrne is a regional manager in the National Advocacy service for People with Disabilities. She is also a writer and broadcaster. Ms Howley is a member of the Disability Federation of Ireland.

‘Challenge management’

Mr Ross said their jobs will “obviously be to challenge management on whether the transport companies and vehicles are disability-proofed”.

“And I think they’ll be able to do it, I think they’ll do it very, very effectively indeed,” he said. The Minister added that the five would “stand on their own on any board” but are bringing “added value” to the positions they are taking up.

“I think it is very important that the issues and the themes are not dictated to from the top all the time by people who haven’t got personal experiences, and here today we have people who have got personal experiences.”

The five have said they will meet from time to time after taking up the roles to assess how they are progressing.

On what improvements they would like to see to the public transport network, Ms Howley said audio announcements on all services are essential for people who are blind or visually impaired. Good, colour-contrasting signage will also help those with lower visibility, she added.

Mr O’Rourke said one of the main concerns he has is access to rural bus services for those with disabilities.