Disability rights group want law changed to make station staff offer help

A disability rights group is petitioning to change the law so that staff members are obliged to offer disabled travellers assistance at train stations.

The Estonian Chamber of Disabled People (Eesti Puuetega Inimeste Koda) wants the change written into the Maritime Safety Act and the Railway Act, something which they say has been postponed for the last ten years. 

The chamber's CEO Anneli Habicht told ERR that writing the change into the law would help people with disabilities who want to live as independent and full lives as possible. 

Habicht said currently the situation is that the train carrier is responsible for providing assistance to people on the trains, and in general this system works. However, when a person reaches the train station, they have no one to ask for help.

"If a visually impaired or blind person, for example, takes a train from Tallinn to Tartu on their own and needs help to reach the platform, the taxi stand or a public transport stop, they would need help. It is not provided today, or very sporadically. A person can ask [for help] and there may be an opportunity. But it's not regulated, it's not organized," Habicht said.

As there are few train stations in Estonia, the change would mainly affect Tartu and Tallinn stations. Habicht said, for example, helping people with disabilities could be part of the security duties. 

However, according to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Maritime Safety Act and Railway Bill Amendment Act, it is possible that the adoption of such a proposal could be postponed for at least another five years. 

Habicht said this is not acceptable. "In Tallinn and Pärnu bus stations a service already exists and satisfaction is high. So why limit this service to bus passengers only? We should have it at bigger train stations as well."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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