We all have places to go, people to see and appointments to keep. For many Australians, catching a bus, ferry, train or tram is what allows us to get from point A to B in our busy schedules. For some people with disabilities who are unable to drive their own car, public transport may be the only way they can get around their city, or travel into regional areas. For others, it may simply be the most convenient transport choice. Just like anyone else, public transport enables people with disability to fully participate in community life by getting them where they want to go.
Accessibility on transport improves the journey for all commuters. Ramps, handrails, boarding devices and elevators at train stations enable anyone who has mobility restrictions to use these facilities, whether it be a person in a wheelchair, an elderly person using a walking stick or a mother with a pram. Audio announcements make it easier for blind or low vision commuters to know which route to take and which stop is theirs, yet everyone on board benefits from the list of stops broadcasted over the speakers. Quiet carriages on trams and trains provide a safe space for autistic people with sensory sensitivities, but may also be used by people who prefer peace and quiet on their commute.
In other words, universal accessible design makes infrastructure easier to use for everyone.
For public transport to be truly accessible, we need to think beyond the infrastructure. The communication tools we use to plan our trip and find the right vehicle are just as important. That's why Speak My Language recently interviewed Yarra Trams for our Somali listeners, sharing how they make travel accessible for people living in Melbourne. Trained customer service employees, like our Somali Australian guest Najib, explained how he assists people with disabilities to find their specific tram number and get priority seating on board.
Melbourne is home to the biggest Somali community in Australia, with close to 3,000 migrants living there. Najib's training not only allows him to assist anybody with a disability, but also allows him to assist people who may speak Somali as their first language. In his interview, he explains how he uses a communication tool that Yarra Trams has designed to help direct passengers. Staff like Najib are trained to help people with communication difficulties get their message across using this tool, which has simple pictures and words to make communication accessible to everyone.
No matter how great the facilities and technology are, sometimes what we need is a helping hand. Employees who speak languages other than English are an asset to any transport network, especially where they have been trained to assist people from diverse backgrounds living with disability. In South Australia, Adelaide Metro, operated by Keolis Downer, has various features on buses, trains and trams to make a trip as accessible as possible. Speak My Language recently spoke with Arafat, a passenger service assistant for Adelaide Metro who speaks English, Mandarin and Turkish. Arafat has assisted people in multiple languages, making the use of the transport network inclusive of people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds.
In his interview, Arafat shared his own experience assisting passengers with language barriers so they can travel with greater confidence. He explains that all employees of the transport network undergo intensive training to provide a truly inclusive service, whether it be a employee like himself who can communicate with a commuter, or a bus driver who is trained to help people with mobility restrictions on board his vehicle. Arafat also stressed that carers or people with disabilities can travel for free with a companion card and that Guide Dogs or registered assistance animals are welcome on public transport as well.
Right around Australia, our public transport system is going through upgrades to continually improve its safety and inclusion. When our transport is accessible, this has a flow on effect within our society, making other services more accessible and supporting people with disabilities in community participation. We are proud to have interviewed the staff at Yarra Trams and Adelaide Metro who provide information and insight into the inclusive ways their transport network operates.