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.

Rail -
The Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR)1998

  • 1 January 1999: New trains (including light rail, underground and trams) must be accessible to disabled people. The Secretary of State can give a vehicle or service special permission not to meet the standards set out in the regulations. The Train Operating Company must make a strong case as to why they should get this exemption and the Secretary of State takes advice from several different organisations before a decision is made. Exemptions are most commonly given for so called Heritage Railways. These services usually provide an experience rather than a form of transport and their historic value could be destroyed by the enforcement of the regulations. These companies are however encouraged to do as much as possible to improve access for disabled people
  • 1 January 2020: All rail vehicles will have to be accessible to disabled people by this date, as required by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005

These Regulations ensure minimum standards of accessibility, including:

  • boarding devices to enable wheelchair users to board and alight more easily
  • larger and more easily accessed priority seats for disabled passengers and a minimum number of designated spaces for wheelchair users depending on the number of carriages
  • the provision of wheelchair accessible toilets where other toilets are provided
  • the provision of improved travel information which can be seen as well as heard
  • appropriate tonal contrasting of features such as handrails and doors

There are two European Commission proposals which impact on rail travel for disabled people:

The TSI will set minimum standards for the specification of accessible infrastructure on the Trans European railway Network and for new and upgraded rolling stock.

The proposed Regulation would establish rights in relation to international rail travel including specific provisions covering disabled people.

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.

All licensed passenger train operators and station operators are required, as a condition of their licence, to have due regard to Train and Station Services for Disabled Passengers: A Code of Practice, when providing facilities or services for passengers with disabilities.

This Code of Practice states:

Steps at the external doors of trains must have a contrasting band of colour across the front edge of each tread, be slip-resistant, with a vertical riser between each step. Each step must be illuminated.

Exterior passenger doorways to trains must contrast in colour with the exterior of the vehicle to each side of the door to show visually impaired passengers where they are. They must also have distinctive audible warning devices to tell passengers when doors can be opened, and when they are about to be closed. Carriages with wheelchair spaces must have a door on each side of the carriage which is suitably wide for wheelchair access and marked with the appropriate symbol. The passageway between the door and the wheelchair space must be level and wide enough to allow access and turning.

Door controls must be identifiable by touch, contrasting in colour with their surround and must light up when the doors are operable; they must be at a specified height and operable by the palm of the hand using light pressure.

A powered lift, or powered or manually operated ramp, should be fitted at any wheelchair accessible doorway, unless the gap between the train and the platform is very small. If a lift, or powered ramp is not fitted to the carriage, the train operator must provide a separate ramp and assistance in using it.

Information outside the train - The RVAR require trains to have displays of a specified size on the front of the leading carriage, or on the sides of the carriages, depending on the size and type of train. These displays must be used to show the destination or route while the train is in a station.

General design - Train floors must be slip-resistant. The colour of the floor in the doorway must contrast with the colour used for the floor of the passenger saloon.

Internal doorways which lead to designated wheelchair spaces, wheelchair accessible toilets or wheelchair accessible sleeping accommodation must be wide enough to allow wheelchair access.

Door controls must be identifiable by touch, operable with the palm of the hand using little pressure and should contrast in colour with the surrounding surface.

Colour contrasted non-slip handrails and handholds of specified sizes must be fitted on either side of external doors and to seats in gangways.

Transparent panels in carriages must be clearly marked with a band of colour or placed away from areas where they could be bumped into.

Seating - At least a tenth (but not more than eight altogether) of the seats in a carriage must be priority seats for the use of disabled passengers. These must be of specified dimensions and be clearly marked to show that disabled people have priority use of them.

There must be at least two wheelchair spaces on the train (more for longer trains). These wheelchair spaces must be suitably sized, with a means of ensuring the wheelchair does not tip over and have a device for attracting attention in an emergency. There must be no obstructions in the space, nor must any folding or tip-up seat provided for other passengers obstruct the space.

If 10 per cent or more of the seats in a carriage have tables or trays, similar suitably positioned fittings must be provided at each wheelchair space. Help must be available to fit or remove these on request.

Passenger information - There must be audible announcements and visual displays inside each carriage for passenger information. Displays should be visible from most seats, including priority seats. They must be used to give the destination or route of the train, to announce the next stop at least five minutes prior to arriving, to give details of delays or diversions, and to make emergency announcements.

Toilets - All toilets on trains must have colour contrasting fittings and controls. Door controls must be identifiable by touch and be operable with the palm of the hand using little pressure.

If a carriage has toilets, the nearest cubicle to a wheelchair space or wheelchair accessible sleeping accommodation must be wheelchair accessible. The passageway to and from the accessible toilet must also be accessible, and there are requirements for the internal dimensions and layout of the cubicle itself. These include the provision of handrails and at least two emergency alarms, one close to the floor and one at a higher level.

Other facilities - Where sleeping accommodation is provided for other passengers, suitable sleeping accommodation must be provided for at least one wheelchair user, and for at least two wheelchair users if more than one carriage has sleeping accommodation.

If a carriage has a telephone, it should be wheelchair accessible. Alternatively a mobile phone must be available on request.

Where catering facilities are not wheelchair accessible, a reasonably similar service must be provided to any disabled person in a wheelchair space or wheelchair accessible sleeping compartment.

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