Thomas Robins is concerned about the lack of wheelchair constraints on buses. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Thomas Robins is concerned about the lack of wheelchair constraints on buses. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

‘Stop risking our lives’: Wheelchair users fight for reform

WHEELCHAIR users risk their lives every time they travel on a bus without anchored restraints, disability advocates warn.

Along with bus drivers and on-board accident victims, advocates are fighting for reforms to federal and state legislation to install restraints for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

This comes after a death and many regular accidents on public transport throughout Queensland, including the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Access Advisory Network Incorporated president Trevor Rice believes people with disabilities and older residents need access to a safe transport system.

Mr Rice, who assists Sunshine Coast Council with infrastructure decisions and advocates for people with disabilities, witnessed first-hand the aftermath of a wheelchair tipping several years ago when boarding a bus at Nambour Rail Interchange, headed for Cooroy.

"I saw a young lady lying on the floor of the bus," he said.

"I noticed a paramedic with her.

"She had blood pouring from her face and was very stressed.

"Her wheelchair was on its side next to her."

Mr Rice said the girl appeared to have cerebral palsy and would not have had the strength to hold on to the handrails on the bus.

"People in authority need to consider the safety of people with disabilities on public transport and try to provide necessary safety measures," he said.

Representations were made as early as 2013 by previous network president Peter Ryan to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport when the Australian Transport Standards were previously reviewed.

The network wants mobility restraints with effective locking systems to ensure the safety of passengers on all public buses.

Victorian coroner Simon McGregor found the death of 76-year-old John Wilks in August 2017 could have been avoided if public buses had been fitted with wheelchair restraints.

His investigation revealed Mr Wilks could not hold on to the grabrail provided, as he was paralysed down his left side from a stroke in 2013.

The coroner warned that requiring passengers in wheelchairs to physically hold a grabrail, presented a known, yet unaddressed, systemic issue.

Spinal Life Australia chief adviser John Mayo - a voice for spinal disability for 25 years - has been frustrated by watching successive governments fail to deal with accessibility and mandate safety measures to prevent more bus injuries.

Mr Mayo has researched the issue extensively and is in the process of creating a solution in the form of a device that caters universally to all mobility devices.

"I have initiated with a designer a methodology to build a prototype of a system that can be deployed in buses, anywhere in the world."

A Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development spokesperson said the issue of mobility aids tipping while in transit had been raised in submissions to the third review of the Transport Standards, which were being reviewed and were expected to be finalised later this year.

A State Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said the use of restraints was covered under the broader (federal) Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport Guidelines 2004.

The act outlines that if safety belts are legally required for seated passengers, the same applies to people with disabilities.



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