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Stress and drivers’ negative attitudes prevent people with disabilities from using public transport

Individuals with functional impairments travel less by public transport than other groups. A study of complaints from passengers with disabilities indicates that stress and the drivers’ negative attitudes prevent people with disabilities from using public transport.


Public transport authorities and providers have invested heavily in technological solutions in order to improve the accessibility of public transport. Despite this, individuals with functional impairments use public transport less than other groups. To determine what obstacles there are for passengers with disabilities in public transport, Vanessa Stjernborg from K2 and Malmö University has studied complaints received by the public transport authority in Stockholm, Storstockholms lokaltrafik, SL.

- Many of these complaints concern buses, and they indicate that passengers with disabilities feel that the drivers are stressed, and that the drivers do not use the technical aids intended to help passengers with functional impairments, says Vanessa Stjernborg.

Among other things, the complaints suggest drivers are not using the function to lower the bus to make it easier to enter and exit the vehicle. Other complaints suggest drivers are unwilling to assist by extending the ramp intended to help wheelchair users to enter the bus. It also involves difficulties when buses stop far out in the street, requiring a big step to reach the pavement.

- Passengers with functional impairments express that they are dependent on the help of other passengers in order to enter the bus, others have been falling when trying to get off the bus, says Vanessa Stjernborg.

Another obstacle mentioned among the complaints is stressed and negative attitudes expressed by drivers becoming irritated when passengers with disabilities are unable to enter or exit the bus quickly enough. Previous international studies also show that bus drivers’ attitudes are a common obstacle for passengers with disabilities in public transport, and according to Vanessa Stjernborg, there is nothing to indicate that this is a unique challenge to the public transport in Stockholm.

- Conflicting goals arise when public transport aims to facilitate commuters who value quick and efficient public transport, while at the same time remaining accessible to everyone, including those who need a bit more time and help. But improved accessibility can also be a quality factor that benefits all passengers, Vanessa Stjernborg concludes

Read the article Accessibility for All in Public Transport and the Overlooked (Social) Dimension—A Case Study of Stockholm

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