On the 27th of May 2021, EUD attended the conference hosted by the European Disability Forum (EDF) which was organised to highlight the need of accessibility of rail travel for everyone, especially for passengers with a disability. The EU Commissioner for Transport, Ms Adina Ioana Valean, gave the opening remarks alongside the EDF Vice President John Patrick Clark. During the conference there were two sessions. The first session focused on the EU policies that aim at improving the accessibility of rail travel and the national implementation of those policies. In contrast, the second session presented concrete examples of the barriers for persons with disabilities and provided with some practical solutions to remove those barriers.
The first session featured speakers such as Pablo Fabregas Martinez from the Cabinet of the EU Commissioner for Transport, Eddy Liégeois, Head of the Transport Networks Unit at DG MOVE (Mobility and Transport) at the European Commission and Dovilė Juodkaitė, the President of the Lithuanian Disability Forum. Each panelist presented their insights on the TEN-T Regulations (Legal framework for the development of infrastructure) surrounding accessibility in infrastructure and transport. Mr Liégeois stated that Article 37 of the regulation requires TEN-T infrastructure to ensure seamless mobility and accessibility for all users, including persons with disabilities. Therefore, the EU Member States must comply with this demand when they use EU funding to develop infrastructure.
During the second session, the speakers concentrated on the barriers faced by passengers with disabilities. The speakers included Soufiane El Amrani, self-advocate and easy to read expert from Inclusion Europe; Laura Alčiauskaitė, Project Coordinator of TRIPS from the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and Blaž Pongračič, Senior Policy Adviser on passenger rights from the Community of the European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). Each speaker provided some excellent practices for solutions to address these barriers. Blač Pongračič presented that the European Railway Company SNCF developed a digital solution to provide information to deaf passengers through visual communication, a new app is being developed which will enable deaf passengers to follow the audio announcements through written text.
During the conference EUD observed the changes and progress made by the European companies in the field of transport to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities. The deaf community must work with these companies to highlight the obstacles faced by deaf passengers when travelling by rail and help present solutions to ensure they have freedom of travel.
You can watch the recording of the conference här.