Poor access to rail networks breaches rights, disability protesters claim
Broken lifts and unstaffed stations among reasons for lack of accessibility, group says
Members of disability rights group group Dart Access For All protesting outside Clontarf Dart station on Friday. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Poor accessibility to Dart and other rail networks breaches the human rights of wheelchair users, disability protesters have claimed.
Congregating on Friday outside Clontarf Dart station in Dublin, where lifts are frequently out of order, the group demanded equal access to public transport services for people in wheelchairs or with disabilities. The Dublin Access for All protest was supported by the Central Remedial Clinic and the Irish Wheelchair Association.
Unstaffed stations and broken lifts mean wheelchair users often cannot access trains, or cannot get off, the group said.
“It is the equivalent of being caged or in a straitjacket,” said Seán O’Kelly (28), a disability activist who now avoids the Dublin commuter rail service “at all costs” .
In 2016, Mr Kelly found himself left on the Clontarf platform for half an hour while he awaited assistance. He said he was not told the lifts were broken, despite having called ahead.
“I felt helpless and humiliated,” he said. “It is wrong that we have to beg for access to public transport. It is a basic human right,” he added.
Saoirse Smith (27) said she can never relax when taking the train, as she is “constantly worried” something will go wrong.
She recalled being trapped on a Dart at Connolly station for nearly 20 minutes, when the staff member who was supposed to arrive with a ramp did not turn up.
“I felt like a burden to everyone, because people have places to get to too,” said Ms Smith, whose cerebral palsy means she requires a wheelchair.
The issues do not stop once she gets off the train . Due to broken lifts she has often travelled past the station closest to work (Blackrock) to Dún Laoghaire, where she would use the lift to change platforms before travelling back to Blackrock station. “It is the time that it takes to fix lifts that is so frustrating,” she said, adding it can take months.
Iarnród Éireann spokeswoman Jane Cregan said lift issues predominantly arise from misuse and it endeavours to fix faults within 24 hours, although this can take longer.
“We apologise for the issues experienced, particularly in locations where there have been recurring issues,” she said. She added that there would be a “more significant programme of investment in lift replacement over the coming years”. This will see “new and more durable units installed”. Ms Cregan said Iarnród Éireann would like to meet the group to discuss issues raised.