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

Vanessa Stjernborg, Sustainability, September 2019

Sweden was early to develop legislation related to accessible public transport for disabled people in 1979 and can therefore be seen as a forerunner. However, recent findings reveal widespread barriers in the Swedish public transport system and large variations between different parts of the country. This paper draws on empirical material consisting of complaints regarding accessibility left by travellers in Stockholm to a local transit company and aims to provide an overview of the character of complaints and to identify common themes through a qualitative content analysis. The results show that the most commonly reported challenge relates to boarding or getting off the vehicles, where the drivers are mostly described as the underlying reason for those difficulties. The narratives describe how some drivers misuse (or do not use) the accessibility equipment or show an abusive or attitudinal behaviour. The results support the body of literature on the meaning of continuous work with accessibility issues in public transport. Varying views on disability may have had a substantial impact on the development of our societies and on how the issues of accessibility in the public transport system have been prioritised or handled. Thus, this study highlights existing social barriers and variations in individual capacities as important factors that influence the experiences of public transport users. The study recommends an increased focus on educating drivers and staff about how to accommodate different groups of travellers. The study also recommends that transport providers consider drivers’ working conditions (i.e., with the consideration of timetables and high time-pressure). Further research on how well accessibility adaptations in public transport actually work and how the users perceive them is necessary.

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