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Belgium: The train with a disability runs 24 hours late

July 8th 2015

De trein met een handicap heeft een vertraging van 24 uur / Les trains handicapés ont un retard probable de 24 heures

The use of public transportation often poses problems for persons with disabilities. This campaign addresses the problems they experience when travelling by train. It was organised by the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and the High National Council for Persons with a Disability (Belgium) and took place in Dutch and French during one day in the main train station in Brussels.

Description

The use of public transportation often poses problems for persons with disabilities. This campaign addresses the problems they experience when travelling by train. The accessibility of trains and train stations is still seen as an impossible investment. This is often due to a lack of general policy on accessibility. There are also several cultural and regulatory obstacles to be dealt with.

The Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities and the High National Council for Persons with a Disability wanted to address this issue on the International Day of Persons with a Disability. Until now, persons with a disability have to book their trip at least 24 hours in advance. The train company says this timing is necessary to ensure they can be assisted for travelling.

Because this regulation limits the freedom of persons with a disability, the campaign highlights the following questions:

  • The repeal of the 24 hours ‘delay’ for disabled persons
  • Raising the accessibility of the train infrastructure and giving better assistance on the entire railway network
  • Respect for the individual rights of persons with disabilities: the right to work, participation in public life, freedom of movement. The NMBS (Belgian National Railways) must comply to these requirements along the Belgian antidiscrimination regulations and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The 24 hours rule isn’t founded, according to the Centre. In The Netherlands, persons with a disability have to announce their travel 3 hours in advance and there are plans to reduce this to 1 hour. It’s not unreasonable to ask an improvement of the Belgian system.

During the awareness-raising action, commuters at the Central stations were asked by fake controllers (actors from the improvisation league) if they had correctly booked their tickets the day before. When commuters replied they didn’t, they were told by the fake controllers that unfortunately, they wouldn’t be allowed to travel today. Commuters were then informed that this was an action to raise awareness about the 24 hours rule for people with a disability.

Announcements were also made throughout the station, with loudspeakers, that “trains with a disability run 24 hours late”

We also put up banners in the Central Train Station and the action was filmed by a professional TV crew form the national television.

The same day, we asked (and obtained) a meeting with the direction of the train company.

Media were of course invited to make reports about the action.

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