Campaigner set for authorized motion over ‘essentially damaged’ rail help app – Incapacity Information Service
An activist with disabilities has taken the first steps to take legal action against the rail industry’s use of a long-delayed and “fundamentally broken” mobile phone app for passenger assistance.
The industry was hoping their Passenger Assist app would make it easier for disabled passengers to book assistance with train travel, but Doug Paulley says this is a “massive disappointment” and will even prevent many disabled passengers from traveling.
The Rail Industry Group (RDG), which represents the UK railway companies, had already been warned that the app was unsuitable for the purpose.
But this week Paulley (pictured) released a detailed report on the app’s flaws, telling RDG, South Western Railway and TransReport – the tech company responsible for designing the app – that they view its blog as a “letter before action” should. the last step before taking legal action.
He now wants to admit that they have discriminated against disabled people by not making the booking of wheelchair spaces and assistance “easy and reliable”; a promise to fix the problems with the system; and adequate financial compensation.
Early versions of the app that were tested secured the support of people with disabilities, many of whom worked to improve accessibility.
It finally launched in May, nearly three years after it was originally planned, with TransReport securing £ 2.3million venture capital for the project earlier this year.
Paulley said, however, that the Passenger Assist app doesn’t offer many of the “revolutionary features” it promised.
He says there is no way for staff and passengers to get in touch; no possibility for disabled passengers and staff to come into contact with one another in the event of train disruptions or errors; and no GPS tracking of the passenger to inform staff of their location.
There is also no way to buy a ticket via the app at the same time as the booking aid.
Most importantly, Paulley says, it doesn’t allow a disabled passenger to book a wheelchair space, and in fact “doesn’t mention booking wheelchair space at all”.
Instead, he says, it simply provides “a single point of contact for booking passenger assistance … with a comparatively accessible interface (thanks to the contribution of some excellent disability rights activists) and with passenger assistance needs and biographical details pre-filled without” . having to repeat it for each booking ”.
He adds, “This is a benefit, but nothing like what was promised all those years ago, and unfortunately these benefits are offset by some significant issues.”
Paulley says in the letter before acting that last fall, TransReport also took over responsibility for the database of 1.25 million assistance bookings on the rail network each year *.
Since then, he has had “repeated and significant problems booking wheelchair spaces,” and says that TransReport’s system is falsely telling rail staff that there are no spaces available, even though older systems indicate that spaces are available and the staff does make it possible to book these seats on the same trains.
But he says the app has other flaws as well.
If railway companies do not mark the journey of a disabled person as “completed”, which they never do, the journey will “hang around forever” in the “Current journeys” section of the app.
The app also allows users to book assistance with trips on the London Underground that cannot be booked; Allows the booking of train ramps to make it easier to board replacement rail cars; and enables the booking of ramps for stations that can only be reached via several flights of stairs.
Paulley says the app also allows passengers to make booking inquiries “impossible at short notice,” for example for a train that leaves in five minutes.
Paulley added the South Western Railway to its legal warning after a “nightmare” booking marathon wheelchairs lasted more than an hour and still failed to result in a usable booking.
All of this, he said, “to try and do what an able-bodied person can do in seconds on their website: bookings and make practical arrangements to secure their accommodation and travel”.
RDG had declined to provide by noon today (Thursday) whether it recognized the concerns Paulley was raising and whether it attempted to address them.
However, Robert Nisbet, RDG Director for Nations and Regions, said in a statement: “The Passenger Assistance App is just one element to improve the experience of disabled passengers.
“This app is the first of its kind on UK public transport so it took some time to get it right.
“We also wanted to ensure functionality, so the app went through several rigorous tests and was approved in advance for feedback to an ‘Early Access’ group.
“The app was introduced with functions that already improve requests for assistance, such as B. to offer an alternative to reserve help.
“We’re adding features and we’d love to hear your feedback.
“We balance introducing improvements as quickly as possible with making sure we get them absolutely right for customers so that they can gain confidence on their travels.”
A spokesman for the South Western Railway said the company was aware of the issues Paulley highlighted and said its employees “provide regular feedback to industry partners.”
He added: “We regret the unsatisfactory experience Mr. Paulley had in booking his assistance with us.
“We are investigating further so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We provide regular feedback on TransReport as part of an industry-wide effort to improve the passenger assistance system and simplify the assistance booking process.”
TransReport declined to comment.
* The last available pre-pandemic numbers
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