ON THE RIGHTS TRACK

by Maura Chambers, Brothers Of Charity Services, Hector St, Kilrush, Co. Clare

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I went to a meeting in Dublin on January the 6th, to discuss access on the railway service. I travelled by train from Ennis with my supporter Karen. I was representing namhi in a larger group that included people from the National Council for the Blind, Irish Wheelchair Association, National Association for Deaf People and other organisations representing people with disabilities. The meeting was in Iarnród Éireann’s offices at Heuston Station. The group, called the Users’ Group, has been set up to allow people with different types of disability to give their opinion on the issue of access to trains, stations and information.

Ray Kelly, from Iarnród Éireann’s management, welcomed everybody and spoke about the role the Users’ Group in the planning and development of the railway service of the future.

Dick Fearns, also from Iarnród Éireann, told us about how the company is planning to upgrade the service to make it more inclusive and user friendly.

Diarmuid Ó Múrchú and Paul Wilcock gave us an account of the ongoing work being done at a number of stations around the country. They mentioned lifts, footbridges, platforms, building access, toilets, waiting rooms, public address systems, and help-points—among other things. A number of visuals helped us to get a better picture of the progress being made.

A discussion followed where people expressed their opinions and suggested improvements. Wheelchair users pointed out that there is still a long way to go, while admitting that positive changes have been made and are appreciated. A special mention was made of the staff at Heuston Station for their positive attitude and friendliness. Connolly Station in Dublin and Sallins Station, on the other hand, were seen as examples of services that needed much improvement.

Representatives of all the groups concerned had their say and brought up the issues which affected their members most.

I thought it was a very good meeting and a positive step towards more inclusive public transport. I would like to hear from people with learning disabilities around the country who might like to tell me about things they find hard to manage when travelling by train. I’ll bring these up at future meetings. The next meeting is in Dublin on the 7th of April.

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