More than 50% of Israeli bus stops inaccessible to people with disabilities

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Less than half of bus stops in Israel are suitable for people with disabilities, according to a report released Tuesday by the state comptroller. The report found that public transport still has many accessibility issues for people with disabilities.

Out of 27,000 bus stops, 13,500 stops with interurban services and 3,500 stops for urban lines are not accessible. Of the 80 cities surveyed, 37.5% did not make all their bus stops accessible, 22.5% being at a rate below 85%.

Although the Law on Equality of Persons with Disabilities was passed in 1998, it has not yet been made compulsory to make intercity transport accessible to persons with disabilities. Likewise, the announcement systems available on buses are not fully functional on all buses although they are required by law.

The report found that, according to the estimate of the Ministry of Transport, the cost of making intercity transport accessible would be 3.9 billion shekels per year, but this estimate only refers to full accessibility, and none estimate was given for partial accessibility as only on certain lines, at certain times or with advance notice.

Regarding accessible city lines, the report found that improvements were needed in a number of areas: encouraging bus drivers to support people with disabilities in a respectful manner; use accessibility means such as stopping near the sidewalk, using the ramp, securing wheelchairs before driving and using announcement systems; provide answers and solutions to complaints concerning the accessibility of public transport and the reduction in prices for carers of disabled people. At the time the report was completed, there were no plans to improve these points, and proper driver training was not mentioned at all in the Department of Transport reports.

A woman walks on a platform in front of a train as passengers are seen through the windows of rail cars at HaShalom Station in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 25, 2018. Photo taken on November 25, 2018 (Credit: REUTERS / CORINNA KERN)

At stations, the report revealed that some platforms are not at the same height as the train. This makes boarding and disembarking difficult for people who need wheelchairs or other means to help them walk. The report also surveyed eight stations for sensory accessibility in elevators, ticket offices and public spaces. While six of the stations were found to be fully accessible, Ashdod Ad Halom and Tel Aviv University stations did not have announcements in all of their elevators, making it difficult for blind people to find their way. .

The last item in the report was accessible taxis, and it revealed that there are only 875 accessible taxis operating in the country despite the government granting 1,000 accessible taxis licenses. This means that there is less than one taxi for 1600 people compared to one for 340 people without disabilities.

In practice, the number of available taxis is even lower as many drivers with accessible taxis use their larger vehicles to transport large groups of people rather than keeping them available for the people they were intended for. This is made possible by the fact that the Ministry of Transport grants licenses without any required criteria and does not bind the drivers to a contract which guarantees that they are providing the service for which they are authorized.

Failures in the accessible public transport system are problematic for hundreds of thousands of people with various disabilities ranging from physical to sensory to mental. These people depend on public transportation to get around, but they need accessibility to make it possible.

“Unfortunately, the report speaks for itself,” said Access Israel founder Yuval Wagner.

“When you put them to the test, you find that public transport in Israel is not accessible. There is no doubt that the Ministry of Transport invests billions of shekels in public transport, but at the same time, does not invest in the establishment of fully accessible services for people with disabilities.

“Access Israel is working on the issue with the Ministry of Transport, but unfortunately to date there is a will within the ministry, but there is no plan of action.

“In Israel in 2021, they want to advance public transport, but not for people with disabilities. The sad result is that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are harmed by this policy and do not benefit from the use of accessible public transport in Israel.

“I encourage the Minister of Transport [Merav Michaeli] to take this matter in hand, to develop a multi-year work plan and we will help you in any way necessary.


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