Bart Bunty, who won paralympic gold for Australia in down-hill skiing several years ago, fell from a train with his guide dog Chevy last Friday as the result of no “next stop announcements”.
Bart, who was travelling to the Blue Mountains for the weekend, was on an inter-urban Sydney Trains train, which did not have next stop announcements. He attempted to get off the train at Leura, where the front two carriages pull up past the front of the platform. As well as no “next stop announcements”, passengers were not advised of this safety issue. Bart and Chevy fell onto the tracks.
Luckily, neither he nor his guide dog Chevy sustained serious injury, and were assisted from the tracks by the driver and guard. Bart has a twisted ankle and knee, and Chevy has a broken harness and a serious fright.
But this was a very near miss. A serious injury could have occurred as the result of no announcements on this train. These announcements are a requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act, as was demonstrated by my court action against Railcorp several years ago. And still they are not occurring on all public transport in NSW.
In my role as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner I have called on the Premier of NSW, and the NSW Minister for Transport, to ensure immediate implementation of “next stop announcements” on all NSW public transport. I have also called for passengers to be advised, through announcements, of this and similar safety concerns.
Whenever a person who is blind or has low vision is using a large public transport vehicle, such as a train, tram or bus, we need to know where we are. We also need to be advised of significant safety hazards. This can only be done through audio announcements.
There has been improvement in the announcements made on Sydney Trains since my court case. But announcements must be made all the time, not just most of the time. And they must also be made on trams and buses, where they are currently sadly lacking. These announcements do not just benefit people who are blind or have low vision – many other passengers find them very useful, and would be safer if they occurred all the time.
I have sought urgent meetings with both the Premier and the Minister for Transport. Serious injury was avoided on this occasion, but we may not be so lucky next time.
What are your experiences on public transport – buses, trains, trams? Are the announcements adequate?
Graeme Innes is Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and he and his guide dog Arrow are regular users of public transport throughout Australia.