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Notice of exemption application: Australasian Railway Association

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Friday 14 December, 2012

Notice of exemption application: Australasian Railway Association

Application

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has received an application under section 55 of the Disability Discrimination Act from the Australian Railway Association (ARA) on behalf of its members for a temporary exemption, for a period of 5 years, in relation to a number of provisions of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.

The application and proposal for revised compliance conditions (large file: 1.4MB; or use MS word zipped file for easier download, 364KB) are attached in MS Word format as provided to the Commission. Any interested parties having difficulties with access to these documents are invited to email disabdis@humanrights.gov.au for assistance.

The application includes the following:

ARA supports the intent of the Standards and intends to adopt them as part of a rail industry Code, but has concerns that some Transport Standards cannot be met as a result of technical, safety, and operational constraints unique to rail transport.

ARA is keen to resolve these issues and understands that the only way of doing so (at present) is by applying for an exemption to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). The five-year review by the Accessible Public Transport National Advisory Committee, which will start after 2007, is too late, particularly in view of the lead time required to achieve compliance targets. At present, most State Governments are purchasing new trains and trams and building or refurbishing stations. Rail operators and providers need the certainty of approved solutions to improve the accessibility of transport premises, infrastructure, and rolling stock. The rail industry is also eager to avoid imposing future costs on public funds and resources by any retrofit required owing to lack of certainty in the design process.

The attached document constitutes an application for exemption from those clauses of the Standards that cannot be adopted in their current form. The document highlights exemptions and clauses not requiring any changes. In a number of clauses, the intention of the Standards remains the same, but words have been altered or additional information added to improve the clarity. For consistency, these clauses are included as part of the exemptions. Where relevant, extracts from the Guidelines to the Standards have been inserted.

In summary, practical solutions are needed where current Standards cannot reasonably be met. ARA requests exemption from relevant Standards listed in the document attached as the most effective means to address the needs of all stakeholders (community, public transport providers / operators, designers, equipment providers, and contractors).

ARA is keen to work with HREOC and the peak disability communities to achieve standards that can be implemented. ARA will then work to incorporate these Standards as a rail industry Code.

Call for submissions and further process

In accordance with its policy on exemption applications, the Commission will be giving interested parties an opportunity to participate in the process of considering this application.

Accordingly, the Commission seeks initial submissions by 13 September 2005, preferably by email to disabdis@humanrights.gov.au . Depending on submissions received, the Commission then anticipates convening a forum for interested parties to discuss the issues further so as to assist the Commission in coming to a decision on whether the exemption applied for should be granted and if so on what conditions.

Submissions may also be addressed by mail to Disability Rights Unit, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, GPO Box 5218, Sydney 1042. Where submissions are made by mail a copy on disc should be included if possible.

To promote open public discussion and exchange of views, the Commission intends to make submission publicly available by posting submissions made electronically on its Internet site. Requests for material to be treated as confidential should be clearly indicated. Persons or organisations may make more than one submission if they wish (for example to comment on issues raised in other submissions).

David Mason
Director Disability Rights policy, HREOC
2 August 2005