2013 is a momentous year for Dublin Bus as, for the first time ever, the company has a fleet that is 100% accessible. This result is in keeping with the company’s commitment to have a fully low floor wheelchair accessible fleet by the close of 2012. This is good news not only for wheelchair users but for customers with mobility impairments, older customers and customers with buggies. So no matter what route a customer takes they can be guaranteed it will be accessible.
All buses are now equipped with low floor chassis, kneeling suspension to further reduce entry step height, retractable ramp at entrance and a priority space for wheelchair users as standard.
The achievement of a fully accessible fleet was made possible by the recent acquisition of 80 new highly advanced double decker buses as part of Dublin Bus’ fleet replacement programme and funded by the National Transport Authority.
The 80 new buses incorporate a range of improved accessibility features including:
• bilingual passenger information signs in the upper and lower saloons announcing the next bus stop (the company is also piloting audio next stop announcements on Route 7),
• clearer signage to identify the priority space for wheelchair users,
• improved signage at the front seating area requesting that these seats be prioritised for people with a disability, older, pregnant or have difficulty standing.
These developments in accessibility features are, in part, a result of Dublin Bus’ accessibility working group which meets on a quarterly basis and includes representatives from various user groups including: National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI), Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), St. Michael’s House, Irish Guide Dogs Association and The Older People’s Parliament.
The new buses have been deployed across the Dublin Bus network and operate on Routes 1, 4, 7, 29a, 33, 102, 104 and 151.
Speaking about Dublin Bus’s achievement, the National Disability Authority’s Director, Siobhán Barron, said: “Transport is essential to enable people with disabilities so that they can get to work, can meet with friends or get to where they need to go e.g., to shop or participate in sport, enabling them to be part of community life. The National Disability Authority welcomes the achievement of Dublin Bus in making their buses accessible for customers and sees this as a significant step in supporting people with disabilities as active citizens in the community’’.
Along with developments in bus design aimed at increasing accessibility, since 2007 Dublin Bus has also provided a Travel Assistance Scheme to help people with disabilities to travel independently. Under the scheme, the Dublin Bus Travel Assistant accompanies the service user the first few times they travel and also provides advice on planning a journey using Dublin Bus, the DART or the Luas. Speaking about the initiative, bus user, Frank Daly outlined what the service has meant to him, “Through the Travel Assistance Scheme. I was given practical advice on planning journeys and using the bus. It has given me greater independence and has been a very positive experience for me.”
The scheme runs from 8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday, is free of charge and is available to people aged 18 or over. Hundreds of people use the service annually and it continues to grow in popularity each year.
Commenting on attaining the target of a fully accessible public transport service and incorporating best accessibility business practice in its operations, Dublin Bus’ Accessibility Officer, Dolores Henchin said; “As a public transport provider in the Greater Dublin Area, a priority for Dublin Bus is to provide a service that is accessible to all. Reaching this target ensures that anyone across the Greater Dublin Area can travel on our services as far as Newcastle in County Wicklow, Balbriggan in North County Dublin and Maynooth in County Kildare. Dublin Bus will continue to take advantage of advancements in technology to improve the customer experience when travelling on our services.”