I bring the House's attention to a report that was the subject of a Private Members' motion in the Dáil last Thursday, entitled "Accessibility of Public Transport for People with Disabilities". It is a fine piece of work that took the committee some time last year under the Chairmanship of Deputy O'Dowd. The committee reported in November. The motion was unanimously agreed by the Lower House. In fairness, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has agreed to appear before that committee every six months.
He will do so on 22 April this year to respond to the 16 recommendations. I am pleased this is happening. During the debate last Thursday, a young lady, Victoria Matthews, was mentioned by a Deputy. She has written to me as follows:
Dear Senator Dolan,
I am writing to you in regard to the Report above that is to be discussed in the Dáil tomorrow. I am a wheelchair user from Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. I have applied to do a degree in Applied Sports with Business in Sligo IT. Bus Éireann customer service has told Sligo IT that it has no accessibility on the route between Ballyshannon and Sligo.
I hope you can speak on my behalf on this matter. I survive on disability allowance and do not have a car. I rely on the good will of family members to take me shopping, to the doctors, to physiotherapy etc., as do lots of other people in my situation.
Under the Equality Acts 2000-2004, I should not be discriminated against, I should be able to use public transport to meet my needs, in this case I would like an accessible bus to be put on Route 480 Ballyshannon to Sligo.
I have started a petition to achieve this and am trying to highlight the need for accessible transport nationwide [Over 2,000 people have already signed it].
It is unfair that people with disabilities, where the route is accessible have to give 24-48 hour notice. ...
I hope that [you] will stand up for the people on this human rights issue.
I am hoping the Oireachtas will do so. This is about fairness and opportunity. Over the past two decades, we have invested heavily, and rightly so, in the education of young people with disabilities. They need to be able to move on. This is an example of an issue that is preventing them doing so.
On the same issue, the secretary general of the National Bus and Rail Union, NBRU, Mr. Dermot O'Leary, made the following public statement last week:
The NBRU will continue to campaign for appropriate funding for public transport. We will continue to advocate for our transport service to remain in public ownership. We will also turn our attention away from the spotlight of what may appear to some to be constantly speaking about transport disruption to concentrate our energies and focus and work on issues around the harsh coal face of industrial strife, working with all organisations, including those from across the political spectrum, to ensure that the most vulnerable amongst us, those with disabilities, will have equal access to public transport. This particular issue, for us at least, holds as much significance as striving to achieve improvements for our members.
In that spirit, I would hope that our public services and the Oireachtas would not be found wanting in ensuring that accessibility of public transport is moved on speedily for people with disabilities.