Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill: consultation

We are committed to protecting, respecting and championing the rights of people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people. This consultation on proposals for a Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill seeks the views of everyone on how we can do this.

Section 12: Transport

What we have heard

We know that accessible travel can enable people to enjoy a better quality of life, feel more connected to their community and reduce social isolation. However, we understand that there can still be barriers to transport and travel for disabled people, including people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people.

Not being able to travel easily, comfortably and safely will impact many areas of life such as employment, education and access to health, social care and day services, and basic needs like getting shopping and socialising.

The National Transport Accessibility Steering Group (NTASG), together with the Mobility and Accessibility Committee for Scotland, (MACS) bring people with lived experience close to the heart of transport policy making in Scotland.

The NTASG co-produced Scotland's Accessible Travel Framework (ATF)[282] including an easy read version[283] together with Transport Scotland. Both the NTASG and MACS provided input to the development and implementation of Transport Scotland's two Annual Delivery Plans (2019[284] and 2021[285]) under the ATF.

The NTASG and MACS are clear that there needs to be accessible methods of providing feedback to transport operators. We understand that it is key to involve disabled people, people with learning disabilities and neurodivergent people early in the design and development of travel operations and services to make them truly accessible and inclusive.

When co-producing the ATF, disabled people told Transport Scotland they wanted:

  • more disabled people to make successful door-to-door journeys, more often;
  • disabled people to be more involved in the design, development and improvement of transport policies, services and infrastructure;
  • everyone involved in delivering transport information, services and infrastructure to help enable disabled people to travel; and
  • disabled people to feel comfortable and safe using public transport – this includes being free from hate crime, bullying and harassment when travelling.

Through our engagement on the LDAN Bill with neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities, we have heard examples of difficulties that can sometimes be caused by lack of staff and other people's awareness of invisible disabilities, and the anxieties surrounding using public transport that this can cause.

Members of the National Improvement Network (NIN), a group supported by ARC Scotland and authors of the Charter for Involvement, prepared a report[286] on the issues they have getting out and about in June 2023. It set out the challenges around transport specifically for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities, which include:

  • reliability of public transport
  • behaviour of other passengers
  • cuts in services
  • unhelpful drivers
  • anxiety

"Sometimes when I get on a crowded bus or train I can get very anxious and can have panic attacks"

The barriers to travel were described as follows:

  • worries and lack of confidence
  • difficulty getting the right support
  • having access to toilets
  • availability of public transport
  • being able to afford trips; and
  • accessibility of the transport information

"Bus companies change routes and don't tell us. They say look up the website but some of us can't do that."

The Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCLD) also gathered lived experience views in their consultation for the report: A Connected Scotland: Tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections.[287] The report underlines how critical transport services are to enabling people with learning disabilities to be fully included in society. It was thought that the following would help increase access and inclusion:

  • Better accessible information about transport services and timings;
  • Awareness raising and training for transport staff;
  • Removal of physical barriers to transport;
  • Better transport provision for those living in rural communities; and,
  • Travel training as part of the curriculum for people with learning disabilities at schools and colleges.

A charity focusing on bringing neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities together for social events (Get Together) told us of the frustrations from its members when there are no evening services and they can't attend the events that the charity runs. Their service users are sometimes unable to go out socialising or go to concerts as there is often no way to get home.

What did LEAP think?

  • Transport is a vital part of being fully included in society. This includes being able to form and maintain relationships, access education and employment, and attend appointments. More needs to be done to ensure accessibility and inclusivity for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities.
  • People with learning disabilities often have to plan much more in advance to make a simple journey. This can mean they have less freedom and choice.
  • It is frustrating having to re-apply for concessions when, for people with learning disabilities, their disability is a lifelong condition.
  • Need for greater promotion of the various frameworks that are available. These should be better publicised within neurodivergent communities.
  • Support workers and carers are often vital in assisting neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities access and use public transport. Training should be made available to them also to enable the best level of support.
  • Service restrictions are particularly relevant in rural communities where certain transport and/or routes may stop after 6pm, or are so infrequent that the only means of travel is by taxi.

Where do we want to get to?

  • A Scotland where all disabled people, including neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities, can travel with the same freedom, choice and dignity and opportunity as other citizens. This is our vision as set out in the ATF.
  • More neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities are able to make successful door-to-door journeys, more often.
  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities are more involved in the design, development and improvement of transport plans and services.
  • Everyone who provides transport information and services will help make it easier for neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities.
  • Neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities feel comfortable and safe using public transport and are not be bullied and harassed when travelling.

What happens now, and what are we doing about it?

Our vision for transport is delivered by Transport Scotland, as the national transport agency for Scotland. Accessibility and inclusion are at the heart of the National Transport Strategy,[288] sitting within the "Reduces Inequalities" priority, which describes that we will provide fair access to services which will be easy to use and affordable to all.

Since the ATF was launched, targeted Delivery Plans were published in 2019[289] and 2021,[290] and a new Delivery Plan is currently being prepared. A progress report[291] and easy read [292] has also been published to reflect the impact of the pandemic on delivery of the ATF and on everyone's access to travel and Disability Equality Scotland was recently commissioned by Transport Scotland to undertake an evaluation of the impact of the ATF.

The ATF and Delivery plans cover an array of topics, including: infrastructure, ticketing, staff, training and assistance, information, and key issues for specific transport operators.

These actions and commitments from Transport Scotland are designed to uphold the rights of disabled people to live a life of equal opportunities like any other citizen. This is in recognition of the fact that, under the Equality Act 2010[293], public sector organisations must ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to enable access to disabled people.

Whilst good progress has been made, some actions are still being progressed. This is because some of the issues will take longer than others to resolve and may need revisiting over time. Some of the issues remain reserved to the UK Government.

Some of the key actions from the ATF and delivery plans are set out in the following paragraphs. Whilst the actions refer to disabled people, this includes neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities.

Staff Training, Disability Awareness and Attitudes

The Accessible Travel Annual Delivery Plan 2021-22,[294] sets out that there are a number of training modules being used across different transport modes but that disabled people have stressed that this training needs to be consistent, updated regularly, delivered by certified trainers and enable people to refresh their training at appropriate intervals. Training also needs to include information in relation to assistance tools/cards that disabled people use such as the Thistle Assistance Card and sunflower lanyards.

In December 2020, the UK Government Department for Transport created the REAL (Respect, Empathy, Ask, Listen) disability equality training programme to improve the transport sector's confidence and skills in delivering inclusive journeys for disabled passengers.[295] This programme was developed in collaboration with people with lived experience of disability and has been shared across all modes of transport in Scotland.

As part of the revised Accessible Travel Policy guidance published in July 2019, the Office of Rail and Road introduced enhanced obligations on train and station operators to provide up to date, regular disability awareness and equality training to their staff by July 2021. This is to enable frontline staff in Scotland to be trained to communicate more effectively with disabled passengers, and understand the challenges they may face when travelling/.

Similarly, the Civil Aviation Authority who oversee and regulate all aspects of civil aviation in the UK, require that all employees, including management, receive necessary training that is developed in partnership with forums of people with disabilities.

Good practice exists across the country, including CalMac's recently updated Disability Awareness training programme to include Hate Crime, and their work with Promoting a More Inclusive Society (PAMIS) on training staff on their newly installed Changing Places facilities. Additionally, NorthLink Ferries are undertaking training to ensure that staff are familiar with current legislation and safety procedures, including weekly drills, covering the actions necessary to assist all passengers in an emergency situation and have an on-going programme of disability awareness training for their personnel.

In recent years, Transport Scotland has taken forward the following actions:

  • Undertaken a survey with all local authority areas to understand the training provided to taxi and private hire car drivers.
  • Worked with bus operators to explore and understand the training provided to bus drivers and station staff.
  • Promoted and facilitated disability awareness training schemes through the NTASG, ensuring that training is being undertaken by key transport providers.
  • Worked with Disability Equality Scotland, Police Scotland, and People First Scotland as they develop disability awareness and hate crime training in formats tailored to the needs of transport operators.

Inclusive information and journey planning

Transport Scotland funds the Accessible Travel Hub, hosted by Disability Equality Scotland, which provides information, articles and guidance about accessible travel in Scotland.[296]

An example of good practice is that CalMAC is working with the National Autistic Society to create "story boards" detailing journey processes for major and small vessels. CalMac and NorthLink Ferries have also introduced a "Recite Me" function which reads the content of all documents on their website.

Certain aspects of the provision of audible and visible information on-board local bus and coach services across the UK are reserved. In 2018, the UK Government consulted on plans to require the provision of audible and visual information on board local bus and coach services and the Public Service Vehicles (Accessible Information) Regulations 2023[297] came into force in October 2023. Individual provisions of the 2023 Regulations are being implemented gradually.

Transport Scotland is progressing the following to make or encourage improvements around inclusive information and journey planning:

  • Promoting a more inclusive approach to communication and raising awareness of technology and initiatives that ensure passengers can access timely and up to date information that suits their needs.
  • Continuing work with Traveline Scotland, Disability Equality Scotland and Scottish Government Digital to ensure the digital travel information needs of disabled people have been considered.
  • Working with transport operators and Disability Equality Scotland to enhance and promote the information on the accessible travel hub.
  • Procuring the next generation of data management and online services contract to ensure continued delivery of a 'one true source' of travel data as committed to in our 2019 Programme for Government. The service aligns with our objectives to facilitate modal shift to more sustainable public transport and is being developed together with disabled people.

Passenger assistance and accessibility

The Thistle Assistance Card[298] and app was developed by the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) to make using public transport easier for older people and those with disabilities or illness. It is supported by all seven Regional Transport Partnerships, Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government, Transport Operators and disability groups (including Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (SATA), and Disability Equality Scotland).

The Thistle Assistance card and app let transport operators know if someone needs extra support. Awareness raising has taken place in the form of 'A little help goes a long way' campaign on the Thistle website[299] and across social media. This programme aims to highlight where there is need for assistance for those with hidden disabilities, including neurodivergence and learning disabilities. This can be used in conjunction with Sunflower lanyards[300] which are also recognisable to staff and the public and should be used in a respectful way to identify vulnerable people who may require assistance.

Traveline Scotland aims to provide accessible travel information and journey planning, via their website and apps. Ticket booking services ensure there are no higher costs if internet not used. Local Travel Centres are available to assist people in person with booking travel and planning trips.

A passenger assistance app was launched by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) in May 2021 which makes it easier for people to request assistance for their train journeys.[301]

At the start of April 2021, Scotrail reduced its notice period for assistance booking to one hour. This compares with many other UK train operators still requiring 6 hours' notice.

Transport Scotland provides funding to the Ferries Accessibility Fund for improvements to our ferries and ports which has enhanced the ferry travelling experience of disabled people, including those that have hidden disabilities. Projects have included improvements to ferry terminal access and surrounding infrastructure such as: accessible doors, changing places toilets, and staff training.

In recognition of the fact that travel is a door to door journey, work on Clear Pathways initiative aims to ensure that streets and pavements are kept accessible for disabled people. The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019[302] set a national prohibition on pavement parking. There is also work taking place to create new guidance on inclusive street design in town centres and busy street areas. This work is being developed in consultation with representatives from disability and equality stakeholders and a public consultation will launch in early 2024.

There is work ongoing to ensure that street signs, wayfinding signage to transport hubs and journey planning are improved to enable passengers to complete their journeys, particularly at interchanges.

The Civil Aviation Authority produce annual accessibility reports which set out the work being done across Scotland's airports.[303] Airports operate independently but demonstrate examples of good practice, such as creating quiet rooms for autistic passengers, creating autism-champions and seeking Autism-friendly accreditations.

Hate Crime Charter for Transport

Disability Equality Scotland developed the Hate Crime Charter in 2021[304] in partnership with Transport Scotland, Police Scotland, the British Transport Police, South-East Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) and People First. This was formally launched in October 2022 by the Minister for Transport and is supported by a broad coalition of transport operators across all transport modes as well as transport authorities and law enforcement. The Charter provides a nationally recognised system to encourage transport providers and members of the public to support zero-tolerance approach to all forms of hate crime on public transport.

Concessionary travel

Concessionary travel is available for eligible disabled people on buses across Scotland. Criteria for this is led by eligibility for the concession scheme[305] in addition to eligibility for the National Entitlement card[306].

The National Entitlement Card scheme also allows for free travel for companions where required by eligible disabled people of any age (including children under 5).

Blue Badge scheme

The Blue Badge scheme[307] supports those with a disability to lead independent lives. The badge provides parking concessions for on-street parking, allowing badge holders to park close to where they need to go. Transport Scotland is responsible for national policy and legislation which sets out the framework for the scheme and provides support to local authorities to help them deliver it.

Recent reviews of the Blue Badge Code of Practice have amended eligibility criteria to include hidden disabilities, including distress when travelling and for those with conditions which results in lack of awareness around traffic.

Taxis and private hire

Transport Scotland works with local authorities and the UK Government to help improve the accessibility of taxis and private hire cars. In recent years, this has included conducting a survey with all Scottish local authorities to gather information on disability awareness training and the numbers of accessible vehicles. Transport Scotland and MACS has written to each local authority to raise awareness to the Accessible Travel Framework and the UK Government Department for Transport's guidance on access to taxis and private hire vehicles for disabled users.[308]

The UK Parliament recently passed the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act 2022[309] which amended the Equality Act to place new duties on taxi drivers, PHV drivers and operators. It requires local authorities to maintain and publish lists of wheelchair-accessible vehicles. We also recently published an updated best practice guide for Licensing Authorities in Scotland in respect of taxis and private hire cars (PHC),[310] which includes a chapter on accessibility for disabled people. Through Disability Equality Scotland, Transport Scotland supports the provision of information on taxis and PHC on the Accessible Travel Hub.

What can the LDAN Bill do?

The discussion in this transport section sets out that an ambitious and wide ranging programme of work is underway to make improvements for disabled people when travelling, and that this work is being informed and influenced by people with lived experience of disabilities.

Whilst some aspects of transport are reserved to the UK Parliament and UK Government, there are some areas which we could explore in relation to the LDAN Bill as follows.

Proposal 1: National and Local Strategies

Regional transport Partnership's (RTPs) were established to strengthen the planning and delivery of regional transport so that it better served the needs of people and businesses. They publish regional transport strategies specific to each region, supported by a delivery plan. RTPs bring together local authorities and others to take a strategic approach to transport in each region of Scotland. We could consider requiring RTPs to set out in their transport strategies how the specific needs of neurodivergent people and people with learning disabilities are being considered and met through travel information systems and accessibility initiatives.

We could also consider a requirement to set out in RTP travel strategies how staff across different modes of transport are being trained in disability awareness, how that training incorporates specific training on neurodivergence and learning disabilities, and the uptake of this.

Proposal 2: Mandatory training

Various actions and commitments around disability awareness training for transport staff are in place or are currently being progressed but is not a statutory requirement and is not necessarily consistent.

We have also set out in a previous section proposals for mandatory training for public sector staff on neurodivergence and learning disabilities, primarily in relation to health and social care staff, and have invited views on whether this requirement should be extended to other public sector areas. We could consider extending this requirement to transport staff in Scotland.


Email: LDAN.Bill@gov.scot

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