The difficulties people with disabilities face when trying to use public transport.

For many people with disabilities in Ireland, using public transport is not just difficult, but impossible. They are therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing work, education and social life. Other countries already have wheelchair accessible buses, or provide alternative bus services.

The spectrum of disability is broader than most people think, and only a comparatively small number of people with disabilities are wheelchair users, explains a representative from the National Rehabilitation Board. A larger cohort also exists, such as elderly people who might be unsteady on their feet, amputees, people with arthritis and those who have had strokes,

There's a very much bigger number of people with disability of a more general nature.

Martin Rainsford from Limerick a wheelchair user describes his experience of being unable to board buses and trains, and concludes,

You just can't travel in Ireland by public transport, even though they give you a free pass.

Noreen Mullane, also from Limerick, uses a cane when walking but the current design and layout of CIÉ (Córas Iompair Éireann) buses means that she is at the mercy of the bus driver and fellow passengers,

I depend on somebody who is able to hold my messages while I'm boarding the bus, and even at that I find it very very difficult to get on.

A new fleet of CIÉ buses are being built at the Bombardier plant in Shannon. A request from RTÉ to CIÉ for a group of wheelchair users to view one of the new buses with a reporter was turned down.

Ireland's national transport company must follow the United States transport accessibility model, where bus doors open for everyone, says another wheelchair user. US transport operators did resist to changes at first, but they were forced to change as

They were told that they were getting no federal funds unless they made them accessible.

But any hopes that the new Bombardier buses may be accessible to all have come to naught following discussions with the chief executive of CIÉ,

Mr Devlin didn't see that there was a need to make public transport accessible.

The preferred CIÉ model is a demand response system, similar to those already in place for people with acute physical disabilities in some northern European countries. These schemes however depend on advanced telecommunications infrastructure which does not currently exist in Ireland.

The fact that CIÉ is funded by taxpayers some of whom are excluded from using services that they pay for is a source of much frustration, as

The desire of disabled people is to be fully participative of all activities and services in the community.

Brendan Hynes who is Chairman of the National Rehabilitation Board maintains however that a parallel public transport service could be achieved,

I believe CIÉ could develop such a system, if it was given the money.

This report for 'Ireland's Eye' was broadcast on 20 January 1981. The reporter is Colum Kenny.