Don’t leave disabled drivers behind when crossing electric cars

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According to the UK Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. Why then do so many companies and organizations involved in installing new EV infrastructure seem oblivious to this responsibility?

Whether it is facilities provided by national charging networks, retailers, parking providers or local authorities, the picture is the same. There has been a systematic failure to anticipate the needs of people with disabilities when installing charging infrastructure, and there is no government regulation as a backstop to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are met.

We spoke to a range of charities and mobility organizations, all of which paint a grim picture of the current state of the electric vehicle industry from an accessibility perspective, and highlight an urgent need for action so that 14 million people with disabilities in the UK are not left behind.

To get an idea of ​​the problem, we accompanied the charity Disabled Motoring UK on an audit of public charging points at Brighton and Hove City Council. The audit team identified a wide range of challenges faced by disabled drivers using Brighton’s chargers (funded by a government grant), ranging from bays too small to unload wheelchairs, narrow sidewalks and obstructed and a lack of drop curbs which made it difficult to approach the load equipment even when unloading was possible.

The chargers themselves were often too high, so the screens could not be seen clearly from a seated position, while the charging sockets and cables were usually mounted high up and could be difficult to pull out. That aside from the generic issues of the CHAdeMO and CCS outlets and outlets installed on electric cars which can be difficult to handle, especially when attached to heavy and bulky cables, and before the team tackles them. problems with appropriate lighting, audiovisual support or signage.

Brighton, along with other local authorities, are starting to take note of their accessibility obligations. Paul Richardson, who heads the city’s electric vehicle charging projects and invited Disabled Motoring UK auditors to review its facilities, said future tenders will include an accessibility package that suppliers and installers will have to respect.

British Standards Institute (BSI) standards for charging station accessibility are under development, although they are still a year away, and even when they arrive there is no regulatory framework. to ensure that accessible chargers approved by BSI will be installed in the required number.

“We are seeking advice on obtaining powers to impose accessibility standards on UK public charging stations as part of the review of regulations on the future of transport,” the Department for Transport told us. Meanwhile, the industry is moving forward with new loader installations at the rate of thousands per year.

Pending legislation, the prospect of leaving accessibility to the UK’s burgeoning public charging station network in the hands of commercial organizations is a serious concern for Disability Rights UK.

“The installation of charging stations for electric vehicles is a service provision, and as such is covered by the Equality Act, which obliges service providers to anticipate the needs of customers with disabilities,” said Fazilet Hadi, responsible for the association’s policy.

“Charging stations should be accessible to wheelchair users, people with dexterity problems and people with sensory impairments. Those who put charging stations into service without taking into account their obligations under the Equality Act are breaking the law. The government must take urgent action to prevent the installation of thousands of inaccessible charging stations. Neglecting the needs of disabled drivers is quite shocking. It is a step backwards. “

Helen Dolphin MBE is a member of the Disability Transportation Advisory Committee, the statutory body that advises the government on the transportation needs of drivers with disabilities. She says he’s taking action to address accessibility, but progress is painfully slow.

“I have been raising the issue of accessible charging infrastructure for electric vehicles with ministers for years,” she said. “Things are moving very slowly, they are small steps. You get used to it. “

Disabled Motoring UK CEO Graham Footer simply says disaster is imminent. “The law makes it very clear that it is illegal to discriminate in the provision of goods and services, and there are many changes that need to be taken into account now,” he said. “Otherwise, it will cost a lot of money to turn things around in the future, because when disabled drivers start challenging the legality of many of these facilities in court, they will undoubtedly win. “

What we want

  • Urgent provision of accessible EV charging sites.
  • Government regulations on the minimum number.
  • Companies must comply with the obligation of the Equality Act 2010.
  • More people are talking about the accessibility of electric vehicles.

What we found

Graham Footer, CEO Disabled Motoring UK

“If people with disabilities start suing those who provide chargers, they will definitely win. “

Alan Norton, Handicap Motoring UK

“I am disappointed so little has been done. Everyone needs to get back to the drawing board, and we need government regulation now. “

Chris Girling, Handicap Motoring UK

“The amount we have to do worries me. Right now, these things are not even suitable for drivers without disabilities. “

Paul Richardson, Brighton and Hove Council

“We hope that our new standards will compensate for the lack of government rules regarding the charging of electric vehicles. “

Reaction: what the charging network says

We asked five major vendors to reveal how many parking spaces, if any, in their charging networks are “blue badge accessible”. Most were unable to provide the information requested, but shared the view that more needed to be done.

BP Pulse

“We are working with DfT, Motability and others to identify current challenges, and with BSI on accessibility standards for charging stations. We have a number of accessible bays on our network including at least one accessible bay wherever we deploy super-fast chargers on BP forecourts (40 sites and growing) and we have established an accessibility team to focus on these issues.

Instavolt

  • 600 chargers, plus plans for 5,000 by 2024/5

“We know that as an industry we need to do more to accommodate less skilled drivers. I often speak directly to customers about these issues and we have engaged with Motability to better understand the challenges faced by drivers who need accessible spaces when trying to charge their cars. We know that more needs to be done to make electric vehicles as easy to use and inclusive as possible. ”(Adrian Keen, CEO)

Lug point

5,200+ chargers

“We do not have data on the number of our charging stations serving accessible bays. Pod Point is currently working with industry to establish best practices for providing accessible charging infrastructure, while working with its charging station hosts (who own the chargers) and partners. The process will consider the provision of a certain proportion of charging stations specifically accessible to disabled users.

Osprey

  • 450 chargers plus plans for 2,000 chargers by 2024

“The majority of the charging bays that Osprey has installed are in existing parking lots owned and operated by retail owners or local authorities, so we can often be limited in deploying fully compliant charging bays. the BSI by a development of existing site. There is a need for clear legislation on the minimum standards to be met for all new electric vehicle charging bays, so that local authorities and private business owners understand that when they embark on their charging deployments for electric vehicles. electric vehicles, they must release the required number of bays. and space.

You’re here

Declined our invitation to comment.

Mobility view

Motability provides disabled drivers with 222,000 cars per year over a three-year replacement cycle, and says that while six percent of customers are already choosing new electric vehicles, the lack of accessibility to charging puts off many.

“Our research has identified that by 2035, up to 1.35 million people with disabilities will depend entirely or partially on public charging infrastructure, but that they have not been designed according to their needs,” said Catherine Marris, Head of Innovation at Motability.

“As the ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars approaches in 2030, it is imperative that people with disabilities are not left behind in the race to install the Kingdom’s charging infrastructure. -United. The work to secure accessibility standards is vital as the expanding market for charging stations means that many operators can lock down designs and infrastructure for many years without considering accessibility for users with disabilities.

Click here to find out more about the UK’s electric car charging network …


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