The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), as amended by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005), exists to stop discrimination against disabled people in the UK. Transport is covered in the DDA in Part 3 and Part 5.

Part 3
This section includes disabled people's Right of Access to Goods, Facilities and Services. In terms of transport this section relates to public transport premises and services at public transport premises. It also means that all public transport buildings such as train stations, bus stations, airports and ferry ports must be made accessible to disabled people. Also, any services that are provided at these places or offered by these companies must also be accessible to disabled people, e.g. travel information and ticket booking services.

It does not mean that all transport vehicles such as trains, buses, coaches, aeroplanes, ferries and taxis must be accessible. There are separate regulations that set out how buses, coaches and trains need to be adapted and the dates by which this needs to be done.

The Government decided to bring in the Part 3 regulations in stages, so that businesses would have time to plan and make the necessary adjustments. The timetable set out by the Government to achieve full access for disabled people to Goods, Facilities and Services is set out below:

  • Since 2 December 1996 it has been unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability
  • Since 1 October 1999 service providers have had to make "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way they provide their services
  • Since 1 October 2004 service providers have had to make "reasonable adjustments" to the physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access

Previously there was a specific exemption from Part 3 of the DDA for transport services which involve the provision and use of a vehicle. However, since 4 December 2006, regulations made under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 removed this exemption from certain types of transport vehicle. The vehicles covered by the new regulations are rail vehicles (trains), public service vehicles (buses and coaches) vehicles used on a system using a mode of guided transport (trams and light rail vehicles), taxis, private hire vehicles (minicabs), rental vehicles and breakdown recovery vehicles. The operators of such vehicles will now have to ensure they do not discriminate against disabled people and will have to make "reasonable adjustments" in the way they provide their services for disabled people, such as providing extra help or making changes to the way the services are provided.

The 2005 regulations do not remove the current exemption from aircraft and shipping vessels, although airline and shipping operators still have a duty to avoid discrimination against disabled people and to make reasonable adjustments for them in respect of matters such as timetables, booking facilities and waiting rooms at airports and ferry terminals.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) published a Code of Practice: Rights of access - goods, facilities, services and premises.

The Code describes the duties imposed by Part 3 of the DDA and provides practical guidance on how to prevent discrimination. The Code helps disabled people to understand the law and assists those with obligations under Part 3 to avoid complaints and litigation by adopting good practice. It also aims to advance the elimination of discrimination against disabled people and to encourage good practice.

The DRC have also published a supplementary Code of Practice - Provision and use of transport vehicles.

This Code is a supplement to the above-mentioned Code of Practice: Rights of access - goods, facilities, services and premises.

Part 5
This section gives the Government powers to make accessibility regulations for all land based public transport vehicles, these are specifically listed as taxis, rail and public service vehicles (buses and coaches).

The Government decided to set different technical regulations for each form of transport, as there is no single solution that could be used to make all forms of transport accessible to disabled people. For example, completely different solutions are needed to make taxis and trains accessible.

Because of the differences in the vehicles and differing levels of difficulty in making each form of transport accessible, the Government set different timetables for each type of vehicle to become fully accessible. This was also to give those who make and operate vehicles enough time to make the necessary changes to vehicles and designs.

Air transport
Providers of air transport services are currently exempt from the DDA in so far as their service consists of ‘the provision and use of a transport vehicle’.  However, their infrastructure such as airports will still be covered. 

From 26 July 2007 airlines will soon be covered by an EU Regulation on the rights of air passengers with reduced mobility which will impose duties similar to those created by the DDA.  It gives disabled people using air services new protection on all flights within or between European States:

From 26 July 2007

  • Airlines and travel companies cannot refuse to accept bookings from passengers who are disabled.

From 26 July 2008

  • Assistance
    All airports which have more than 150,000 passengers a year will need to have arrangements to assist disabled passengers in the airport. This will mean providing help to get from arrival through to the point of boarding the plane. It will also include assistance at the destination airport from the plane to the airport exit. These services must be provided free
  • Disability awareness training
    Airlines and airport managing bodies are required to provide disability awareness and equality training to their staff. The Regulation also requires refresher training.
  • Assistance on the plane
    The 2008 duties require airlines to assist a passenger with a mobility impairment to get to the toilet and to provide essential (such as safety) information in alternative formats for someone say, who has a visual impairment and needs information in large print
  • Accommodation on the plane
    The Regulation requires airlines to take ‘reasonable steps’ to accommodate the seating needs of disabled passengers

The Disability Equality Duty (DED)

The DED also came into effect on 4 December 2006. This is a duty on the public sector to promote disability equality and will have a positive impact on transport services. For example, local authorities need to build the need for ongoing disability awareness training into service contracts. The police and parking authorities will need to give greater consideration to preventing bus stop parking so buses can get to the kerb and deploy their ramps.

Relevant UK and international standards and regulations

If you would like further information on international legislation relating to disabled people and transport please click on the following link: International legislation relating to disabled people and transport.

Checklist: User Requirements - Transport Information
Checklist: User Requirements - Transport Public Access Terminals


Information Provision

Clear, concise, accurate and timely information is crucial to people making journeys by public transport. For passengers with disabilities, good information can be the difference between being able to make a journey or not.

There are four key stages at which passengers, including those with disabilities, need information:

  1. Before they set out on their journey
  2. When at the train station or the bus or light rail stop (including at interchanges)
  3. When on the vehicle
  4. When they have completed their journey

Before the journey:

  • Easy to use journey planner
  • Timetable information – routes, times etc.
  • Information on which services are accessible and which are not and what to do if services are not accessible
  • Information on connections with other modes of transport
  • Facilities available: lifts, seating, services, toilets, shops
  • Details of the assistance available and how to get that assistance
  • Requirements such as ticket purchase, fares, making reservations, booking seats, etc.
  • Information about time limitation for Free Travel pass holders

At the stop or station:

  • Service and timetable information – arrivals and departures, routes and destinations served
  • Instructions on how to get assistance
  • Instructions on how to buy tickets – especially at ticket machines
  • Information on safe boarding, alighting and waiting
  • Information on facilities available, if any
  • Information on how to make a complaint
  • Information on delays, including how long the delay will be
  • Instructions on what to do in the event of disruption
  • Useful telephone numbers and help phone

On the vehicle:

  • Visible external information on vehicle destination
  • Instructions on how to get assistance
  • Visual and audible information at each stop and in advance of the next stop
  • Location and details of the facilities on board, if any
  • Information on delays, including how long the delay will be
  • Instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency or a disruption to the service

After the journey:

  • Details of connecting services (rail, light rail, bus and taxi), and how to get to them
  • Instructions on how to provide feedback

Operators need to understand that the format in which information is provided is as critical as the information itself. Information which is typically provided in printed form, in spoken form and in electronic form, should be in a format that is accessible to people with disabilities. In many cases this will involve providing the information in an alternative format, such as large print, audio/video tape, braille or easy to read.

The Scottish Executive commissioned a study (Atkins, 2005) into the availability of information required by disabled people when planning a journey using public transport. The research focused on accessibility information relating to bus, rail and ferry services and infrastructure.

Eight categories of essential pre-travel information were found to be required for all modes of transport:

  • Staff assistance e.g. availability, driver assistance and level of disability training
  • Physical accessibility of stops e.g. ramps, raised kerbs, tactile paving
  • Physical accessibility of vehicles e.g. low floor, wheelchair accessible
  • Help Facilities e.g. telephones, help points, taxi numbers and details of organisations who could provide specialist help
  • Stop infrastructure e.g. presence of shelters, seating, toilets
  • Timetable and service communication methods e.g. audible announcements, visual announcements, timetable displays
  • Lighting e.g. if stop environment is well lit and whether shelters are illuminated
  • Surfaces e.g. whether surfaces are glare free or if shelters are constructed of glass or a non-clear material (important information for those with visual impairments)

Public transport information systems
Public transport information systems provide travellers with journey planning and in-journey (including at stop or station) information. The systems combine information gathering, processing, communication and delivery technologies to provide a service.

One of the biggest changes to public transport over recent years has been the widespread provision of high quality real-time information, so that passengers know how their service is running moment by moment. It is important that this information is also accessible to disabled people as well.

The following Guidelines provide some help to achieve this consistently and effectively:

Infrastructure and Buildings

Accessible infrastructure and buildings are essential if people with disabilities are to access and use public transport services in a safe, secure and confident manner.

Features that need consideration include:

  • smooth, level footpaths to and from stops and station entrances and exits with dished pavements at road crossing points
  • safe, accessible, road crossing facilities
  • good lighting
  • safe, convenient drop-off and pick-up facilities for people with disabilities at bus and railways stations

Bus and Light Rail Stops
During the design and maintenance of bus and light rail stops, public transport operators should take into consideration the following points as critical to the development of high quality accessible transport infrastructure:

  • Location
  • Raised kerb
  • Footpaths and crossing facilities
  • Traffic management, including parking and loading/unloading restrictions
  • Shelters
  • Lighting
  • Security
  • Markings and signage including bus stop poles
  • Seating
  • Bicycle parking facilities
  • Information provision
  • Maintenance and cleaning

Transport Buildings and Stations
Bus and rail stations and transport buildings are accessed by a variety of methods including on foot or wheelchair, by car (drop-off or parked), other public transport modes including buses and light rail and other transport means including specialised transport services and taxis. The general principle is that no matter what method is used to arrive at the station or building, the approach should be accessible.

Public transport operators should ensure that the approaches to and the environment around the station or building are clearly signed so that passengers know where they are going.

Improving accessibility for visitors will involve taking a holistic view of the building in question and ensuring that all the following areas are considered:

  • Access to and from buildings
  • Movement within buildings including changing levels (horizontal and vertical circulation), space, lifts, escalators, footbridges, steps
  • Interface with trains, taxis or buses - station platforms and boarding the train
  • Facilities, including ticketing offices and machines, information points, telephones, waiting and refreshment areas/rooms, seating, luggage, toilet
  • Signage and information
  • Car parking facilities, including a drop off zone and ticket purchasing machines
  • Lighting and security


The European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) Charter on Access to Transport Services and Infrastructure, adopted at the ECMT Council of Ministers on 19 - 20 May 1999 in Warsaw, states that accessible vehicles must incorporate as a minimum:

It is also important that vehicles are to be kept clean and equipment is kept in good working order.


The following guidance is available to UK air travel companies:

The purpose of this Code is to improve the accessibility of air travel to disabled people. It is aimed at all those involved in air travel including travel agents, tour operators, UK airlines (scheduled, “no frills” and charter), UK airports (including the architects and designers who are involved in their design), ground handling companies and retailers.

Please note: this Code may now be updated in light of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air.

This Code of Practice states:

Aircraft design - New or refurbished integrated boarding stairs on an aircraft should have a uniform riser height, uniform tread depths and a height for the first step on and last step off that does not exceed the uniform riser height. Tread surfaces should be firm and slip resistant, non reflective and should not be of an open riser construction. The leading edge (or nosing) of each tread should be marked by a strip (50mm deep) of colour that contrasts with its surrounds. Handrails should, where practicable, be provided on both sides, be tonally contrasted to their surroundings and be rounded (max diameter 35-40mm). They should also extend beyond the top and bottom step.

At least 50% of all aisle seats in economy cabins, or those with restricted legroom, should have moveable armrests.

An on-board wheelchair should be provided where the aircraft has a toilet cubicle capable of accommodating one, and on all aircraft with more than one aisle.

Wide-bodied aircraft should be equipped with at least one spacious lavatory for disabled passengers catering for disabled people with a range of disabilities.

There should be no threshold to these cubicles and they should be able to accommodate someone in the onboard wheelchair and an assistant. The toilet should also have suitable handholds to assist someone to transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet, and to help ambulant disabled people to balance. To assist those who are unable to stand, the toilet flush should be positioned to the side of the toilet bowl. The toilet flush should also contrast with the surrounding wall covering.

Any other aircraft equipped with at least two adjacent/tandem lavatories should have at least one adapted for disabled people to access in an on-board wheelchair.

All lavatories should incorporate colour and tonal contrast to assist people with low vision. All instructions inside the cubicle, e.g. those to close and lock the door, should be simple and unambiguous. Wherever possible pictograms should be used and, as appropriate, tactile signs provided to assist blind people, for example, to indicate the “Call for aid” button.

Handrails for passenger use on access stairs and throughout the aircraft should be round in section, slip resistant and colour contrasted against their surroundings. When used on stairways they should return to the wall or to the head and foot of the stairs in a smooth curve.

Floor surfaces on an aircraft should be level, non-reflective and slip resistant.

Lighting, except reading and other lighting under the control of the passenger, should be directed and controlled to prevent glare or shadows. Lighting in the passenger cabin should not result in any sharp contrasts in intensity.

Signage should be positioned so as to avoid shadows and glare. Signage should also contrast with its surroundings and where appropriate be embossed and incorporate pictograms.

On-board facilities
Training - All cabin crew, including the flight crew, should receive disability awareness training.

Seat allocation - Except on grounds of safety, cabin crew should not move disabled passengers from seats that are most appropriate for them.

Cabin crew should be prepared to provide reasonable assistance to disabled passengers with the stowage and retrieval of any hand baggage and/or mobility aid.

Cabin crew should familiarise disabled passengers with any facilities on board designed particularly for disabled passengers. In the case of visually impaired people they should additionally offer more general familiarisation information and such other explanations as maybe requested, e.g. about on board shopping.

Information - All information relating to emergency procedures, etc. should be accessible to people with learning disabilities and provision should also be made for blind and partially sighted passengers. Other printed material, e.g. dinner menus, should, where reasonably practicable, be accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

Where video, or similar systems, are used to communicate safety or emergency information, sub-titles should be included to supplement any audio commentary.

All emergency announcements and others relating to changes to the schedule, connections and on board services should be made visually and orally to disabled people who request that service.

Entertainment - Where possible, films and other programmes should be subtitled for deaf and hard of hearing passengers.

Catering - In selecting catering supplies, airlines should consider how “user-friendly” the packaging is for disabled people.

Cabin crew should describe the food, including its location on the tray, to blind and partially sighted passengers. They should also be prepared to assist disabled passengers in cutting food if requested to do so.

During the flight cabin crew should check periodically to see if their disabled passengers need any assistance. In the case of those requiring the use of the on-board wheelchair, the staff should be prepared to assist the passenger to and from the lavatory e.g. by pushing the on-board wheelchair or offering general support. For the safety of crew and passengers cabin crew must not lift disabled passengers.

Assistance dogs - Assistance dogs (e.g. guide and hearing dogs) should, subject to regulations, be permitted to travel in the passenger cabin at no extra charge. The airline can ask the owner of the animal to produce proof that their assistance dog has been trained by a recognised body. In the UK those bodies will be members of Assistance Dogs UK – the umbrella organisation representing assistance animal institutions in the UK.

Disability Awareness Training

It is important that staff understand the needs of passengers with disabilities and are able to respond to them appropriately. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that staff learn about people with disabilities and their needs is to implement a programme of disability awareness training.

All staff need training in disability issues including, but not limited to, drivers, mechanics, board members, cleaning staff, managers, designers and frontline/customer-facing staff. Everybody in the operator’s organisation should understand the needs of passengers with disabilities as they relate to their own jobs in order that individual members of staff can provide good quality, appropriate and respectful service to passengers with disabilities. Staff who have been trained on disability issues will also be better prepared to work alongside people with disabilities within an organisation.

The range of issues that needs to be covered in training can be considered as follows:

  • The business case - including financial and marketing issues
  • The law - employment and customer service
  • Challenging stereotypes and assumptions
  • Relating to people with disabilities - language, etiquette
  • Working with people with disabilities - practical skills and use of equipment
  • Inclusive working - removing barriers in practices, policies and procedures
  • Inclusive design - removing barriers in the physical environment
  • Inclusive information - removing barriers in communication and information provision

Not all staff need the same training. It is necessary to provide the right sort of training to staff consistent with their functions within the organisation. Senior managers will need to know more about the law, the business case and how to develop organisational systems and policies that will enable good employment practice and ensure quality customer service to passengers with disabilities.

Staff who work directly with passengers will need to understand the more practical aspects of disability, for example: how to guide a person with a vision impairment or how to use a particular piece of equipment. They will also need to know when it is appropriate to respond with flexibility to issues that passengers with disabilities may experience. Designers will need to understand the principles of inclusive design in whatever field they are working, for example, architecture, vehicle design, information technology and so on.

When it comes to who delivers the training, using in-house staff ensures that trainers understand the operator’s specific business issues and the nature of the business. However, in-house staff may lack the expertise and the experience to deliver truly effective training. Using people with disabilities as trainers to deliver training face-to-face provides a role model for the staff who are receiving training and helps to accelerate changing attitudes and behaviours.

In addition, there should be some consideration of the pace of the delivery of the training programme, so that staff can be trained within a reasonable period of time. The pace and resources of the training programme should reflect the size of the operator’s organisation. For large operators, it is more appropriate to measure progress in this area as a percentage of staff trained rather than absolute numbers of staff trained.

There are a number of important things to bear in mind with disability awareness training:

  • Training should be equality orientated, focusing on the fact that the custom of passengers with disabilities is as valuable as that of all other passengers and that they must be afforded the same right to travel
  • It is essential to involve people with disabilities in the design of the training
  • Trainers should have a good track record of delivering effective training
  • If the trainers are not people with disabilities, it should be ensured that they have worked extensively alongside people with disabilities, or have been trained by appropriate registered organisations specifically to deliver the training
  • The views and experiences of people with disabilities should be heard in the training, however that training is delivered. Courses, for example, could include video footage of people with disabilities discussing their experiences. In printed training material, case studies of people with disabilities and their experiences could be included
  • Nominated trainers should have some understanding of how the transport industry operates and the pressures involved. It may be helpful to arrange for them to speak with drivers and customer service staff while designing the course
  • The training event itself should reflect the principles of good access. Training should be held in accessible venues. Delegates should be asked about their own access needs, and those needs should be met. Failure to do this sends out a message that disability is not really considered to be important. It will be necessary to review all existing training courses to ensure that good access principles are adhered to

The most appropriate times to provide training to staff are:

  • at induction
  • on an ongoing basis, for example, three to five yearly refresher courses as part of an integrated programme
  • when there are any significant changes in service practice
  • when staff change their role and require different skills

If disability awareness training to staff has not previously been provided, or there is uncertainty as to the quality of the training that has been provided, it will be necessary to establish a programme that ensures all staff receive disability awareness training over a specific period.

Further information




Last updated: 20.11.2009   © Copyright reserved    Website design: Digital Accessibility Team