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Accessible transport strategy for older people and people with disabilities long overdue

12 January, 2005

Speaking today in response to the Department for Regional Development's Draft Accessible Transport Strategy, Sinn Fein Regional Development spokesperson, Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney expressed his concern that the development of an accessible transport strategy for older people and people with disabilities has been long overdue and reiterated the need for an All Ireland Accessible Transport Strategy.

Mr McCartney said:

"This transport initiative comes almost ten years after the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act. Sinn Fein continues to work tirelessly to promote the equality and human rights agenda and to defend the rights and entitlements of all our citizens. I am amazed that transport legislation in the Six Counties, even with the advent of DDA, is non-existent. To think that the elderly and people with disabilities are protected under the law in this regard is huge human rights issue.

"The British Government are only now at this late stage introducing draft legislation to lift this transport exemption. The EU have set the precedence in its Transport Policy, which places users at the heart of transport policy and promotes the increased of forms of public transport accessible to all, including people with disabilities and older people. With statistics predicting by 2025, 26% of the population in the Six Counties will be aged 60+, and almost 1 in 4 people with a disability, the Department needs to deliver the transport services to those who need it most. The strategy must meet the needs of those in rural and urban centres, cover the entire journey time and be flexible and responsive to individual needs.

"While DRD state in their vision to have an accessible transport system that enables older people and people with disabilities to, "participate more fully in society, enjoy greater independence and experience a better quality of life". We have to ask what provisions have been made for the elderly during the last decade and specifically what about the learning disabled, wheelchair users, visually impaired and those who have hidden disabilities? Yet with so-called equality legislation, we are still seeing the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our society further alienated."

Mr.McCartney has called on the Department to look carefully at the funding implications for the draft strategy. Finance Minister Ian Pearson has drastically cut the Budget Priorities for 2005 - 2008.

"In October of this year we saw the DRD budget like so many other Departments suffering at the hands of British Direct Rule Minister, Ian Pearson. The upgrading of the transport infrastructure to deliver an accessible transport network must include all forms of travel, road, rail, air and sea. Training for staff will be absolutely key in all of this. The question how the Minister believes that an accessible transport policy can be delivered by reducing the DRD budget by £41.9m on Objective A Investment in Transport, over the period 2005- 2005?

"This is not acceptable. For too long now the elderly and disabled have been victims." ENDS

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