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DDA Complaint against Railcorp

A Court in Sydney has ruled that RailCorp breached the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) by failing to provide Audible Announcements on their NSW Rail network and therefore Discriminate against Visually Impaired people

AUSTRALIA'S disability commissioner Graeme Innes, who is blind, has won a discrimination case against NSW rail authorities for not providing audible train announcements.

RailCorp has been ordered to pay $10,000 to Mr Innes, who complained it was discriminating against visually impaired people.

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner had lodged more than 60 complaints in the Federal Magistrates Court about inaudible train announcements on the NSW train network.

Magistrate Kenneth Raphael ruled RailCorp had breached the Disability Discrimination Act because in 18 to 20 per cent of the occasions for which complaints were made by Mr Innes, the network had failed to provide audible announcements.

Magistrate Raphael said despite RailCorp's attempts to ensure clear announcements were made, the steps taken were reactive and haphazard rather than proactive and planned.

“It would appear startlingly obvious to the lay observer that passengers travelling upon trains need to know where to get off,” the magistrate told the court in Sydney.

“It would be equally obvious that this information should be provided in a way that was effective for all passengers.

“If it was not, the lay observer would conclude that those passengers for whom the information was not provided effectively were discriminated against.”

RailCorp had argued that a failure rate of around 15 per cent for announcements did not equate to discrimination.

Outside court, Mr Innes said he felt vindicated and looked forward to working with RailCorp to ensure the system worked.

“I wanted to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision are treated the same as everyone else,” he said.

“I offered many times to work with RailCorp to do this but they didn't want to do it, they wanted to have a legal argument.

“I'm sorry we had to do it. Now that we have, I hope that they'll work with me to address the issue.”

The court ruled that Railcorp must award Mr Innes $10,000 compensation along with interest and legal costs.

Mr Innes has said he will award the damages to charity.

Premier Barry O'Farrell welcomed Mr Innes' success, saying it was a wake-up call for all government agencies to focus on their customers.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian was working to rectify the problems, he said.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which represented Mr Innes in court, said he was entitled to use public transport services without discrimination.

“Audible train announcements are crucial because they allow passengers with vision impairment to know they are getting off at the right station,” said PIAC chief executive Edward Santow.

By John Bedwell 22nd February 2013

John Bedwell lives in Sydney he is the local director of the Sydney NSW Office of Accredited Disability Access Consultants Obvius Access. He has published numerous articles relating to Disability Discrimination and the need for better public and political awareness of the level of accessibility denial that exists in our communities today read more on www.accessconsultant.com.au



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