The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is very welcome to the Seanad. I am looking for an update on the work and actions of the transport working group under the national disability inclusion strategy. How is the group working? How is the Minister of State bringing together all the relevant Departments and stakeholders in order to make real changes, including making disability proofing of transport policy the default rather than the afterthought?
I congratulate the Minister of State on her absolute and complete bias towards equitable policies and the way in which she has fought for people with disabilities. I am determined, as is the Minister of State, to do everything possible to address those challenges and to break down all barriers to independent living and equal participation in society. The Minister of State is aware of the inequitable access to transport for thousands of people with disabilities across the country and she knows the detrimental effect that has on those individuals. It means a lack of independence, isolation and an inability to take part in community activities. The lack of transport has an affect on those people's educational and employment opportunities, and their ability to go out and socialise with their friends and families. It makes me furious to think that because I am able-bodied, I automatically have a easier path through life. That makes me upset. The Minister of State and I have spoken about how hard it is and how upset it makes us that people are barred from doing the normal things we take for granted. Fianna Fáil has always worked to create a fairer and more equal society. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's update. The working group has the tired and exhausted hopes of thousands of individuals, families and communities resting in its work.
I was happy that on 26 January, the Minister of State attended the working group session to examine the accessibility of transport for people with disabilities, including the priority review of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. As she has highlighted, there are significant and immediate issues with the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. There needs to be a focus on those issues and they need to be remedied with haste. The lack of a proper scheme, as the Minister of State knows, is causing unnecessary hurt, physical, mental and financial pain to many families. The Minister of State has also highlighted the problems with the primary medical certificate, as have many Members of this House and the Lower House. An applicant must be permanently or severely disabled to satisfy at least one of the six medical criteria in order to obtain a primary medical certificate. The mobility allowance and motorised transport grant also need to be reformed.
Allowing people full participation in society is an important aspect of our transport policy. I would like to know what steps are proposed towards the disability proofing of all transport projects. That can include buses, trains, footpaths and bus stops. How will the working group take a role in the review of how we apply joined-up thinking? We must make all Departments look at what is best and how we can allow our friends and families who happen to have a disability to become equitable members of our society.