Fighting for rights in the post COVID era
We caught up with our Integrated Transport and Accessibility Manager, Peter, on what International Day of Persons with Disabilities is about and what we are doing to help create a more inclusive railway for people with disabilities.
What is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities?
International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities in all areas of society and development. The day also aims to increase awareness of the situation people with disabilities face in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life.
How has Covid impacted people who have a disability?
Since March 2020, every person on earth has been impacted because of Covid-19, and people living with disabilities are amongst the most affected. The increased risk of poor outcomes has been magnified with reduced access to routine health care, rehabilitation services and more pronounced social isolation.
What do West Midlands Railway have planned to help improve accessibility across their network?
At West Midlands Railway, we are taking steps to increase the accessibility of our trains, stations, and information for our customers. We strongly believe that travel should be open to everyone, and barriers should be reduced to get everyone on board.
Over the next three years, we will be embarking on a programme of changes and upgrades that will have a direct impact on our customers. This includes:
- Our annual plan to provide disability equality training to all our colleagues across the business. Our ‘Accessibility Matters’ programme covers outcomes supported by our Stakeholder Equality Group (SEG) - members who are affected by accessibility barriers.
- Undertaking the Department for Transport’s (DfT) National Accessibility Audit of all facilities at each of our stations. Did you know, we were the first train operating company to kick start the audit and, so far, nearly two thirds of our stations have been audited under the scheme?
- Embarking on achieving accreditation through the DfT’s Inclusive Transports Leaders scheme. The scheme has three levels of accreditation that we need to attain over the next three years.
- Working with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and train companies to prepare for the exciting arrival of the Commonwealth Games in 2022. This includes reviewing and making robust amendments to end-to-end journeys for those who are travelling with an additional requirement and strengthening our resilience to ensure faults are fixed quickly, staff are in the right place at the right time to help, and the integrated transport modes are aligned.
What do we do well at West Midlands Railway?
Accessibility is at the forefront of our operations, and we are proud to say that we are already on the way to becoming a more inclusive railway. Here are just some of the areas we have worked on more recently to improve accessibility at West Midlands Railway:
Disability familiarisation training
At the start of 2020, we set out to ensure that every single colleague at West Midlands Railway had the opportunity to engage and understand the challenges, barriers and successes of people living with a disability. We have already covered many learning outcomes that align with the Equality Act 2010 and the nine protected characteristics - with a specific focus on disability equality.
Our training programme ‘Accessibility Matters’ encompasses seven training modules delivered via a blended approach – some online via our e-learning platform but the majority delivered in a Covid safe face-to-face environment. Our training package was created with representation from our Stakeholder Equality Group (SEG) members – a counsel of rail users who travel on our services – who put real-life lived experiences behind the content that we created together. To date, 2,687 colleagues have taken part in around 4,122 hours of training, via 6,647 separate sessions.
Our SEG meet at least eight times a year and is represented by around 30 people who use our services with a disability. The purpose and scope of the membership is to help guide our business through the changes and improvements needed to make our offering more accessible. Our meetings are attended by many of our senior leadership team and the group influence many projects and policies before they are implemented.
“I really value the experiences, suggestions, and challenges that our members present to us, it always makes us think differently and the needs of everyone is always considered.” – Peter Williamson (Integrated Transport & Accessibility Manager)
Throughout 2021 we rolled out our Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) training to all departments throughout our business. An EqIA is completed whenever an internal change process or new project is initiated. The purpose of the assessment is to inform of any adjustments and amendments necessary to the needs of those with a protected characteristic as defined under the Equality Act 2010.
We were taken by surprise at how many colleagues wanted to take part in the training – so we are launching our next round of training in the new year as well as launching ‘phase two’ of the EqIA embedment process.
We have aligned ourselves with Network Rail and the DfT to ensure that all our stations have complete tactile paving by 2029. In the meantime, we have prioritised customer announcements at stations advising if the platform has full, part or no tactile paving. Our current provision is not the solution to the problem, but we want everyone to be safe when using our stations, right now - today.
For more information on what assistance is available to you when travelling, visit our Accessible Travel page.