Insufficient support for the mobility of people with disabilities

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Image: IVB
Image: IVB

The range of transport services for people with disabilities varies greatly in Switzerland and is difficult to access due to complex organization and high prices. This is shown by a study of the ZHAW. This means that the goals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the area of mobility are not being met. The researchers’ recommendations for action have now been submitted to the federal government.

Many people in Switzerland cannot use public transport (PT), or only to a limited extent, for example because they have a walking or visual impairment. In order to still participate in public life, those affected are dependent on supplementary public transport services. As a study by the ZHAW now shows, the equal mobility of people with disabilities is made more difficult by various factors.

Offers vary or are missing completely

In some cases, people with disabilities do not have access to complementary public transport services, as the cantons are not obliged to offer such services. In addition, there is no supra-regional offer, which makes driving services for longer distances difficult and prevents people with disabilities from participating in certain activities. "What was particularly surprising was the realization that funding for ride services is mostly earmarked. Trips from payers such as IV are only subsidized if they meet a specific purpose, such as a trip to work or a trip to therapy," said Brigitte Gantschnig, study director and head of R&D at the Institute of Occupational Therapy at the ZHAW Department of Health. This means that trips for leisure activities (e.g. visiting relatives) are only partially covered. The costs of transport services are also significantly higher than for public transport, which is why many people with disabilities forgo certain everyday activities completely.

Legal situation and financing not clearly clarified

According to the ZHAW study, the legal status of supplementary public transport services in Switzerland is unclear, as the responsibility for these services is not clearly anchored in the federal government, the cantons or the municipalities. In the view of Ronald Liechti, Managing Director of the Foundation for Transport for the Disabled in the Canton of Bern, the situation is unsatisfactory: "Without a sensible legal basis, there is no sustainable financing, which means that those affected continue to be at the mercy of the gauntlet from fund to fund - which often does not pay after all. There is further uncertainty regarding the financing of the driving services. This depends on the responsibility of cost bearers (IV or health insurance) depending on the type of disability and the canton of residence of the user. In Bern, for example, the network of transport services is well developed and the users receive a lump sum.

The researchers’ recommendation for action focuses particularly on legal anchoring. "Ride services should be subject to the Federal Law on Passenger Transportation (PBG), so that people with disabilities can organize trips via a planning and booking system, they benefit from season tickets such as the Half-Fare Card, and so that the costs of the routes would be the same as in public transport. This would contribute significantly to equal and inclusive mobility," Gantschnig emphasizes. Instead of leaving responsibility to the cantons, the researchers also suggest coordinating ride services nationally and also regulating payment uniformly throughout Switzerland.

Use of public transport complementary driving services.

A total of 594 people with and without disabilities participated in the project’s studies. Of these, 336 (57%) were women, 256 (43%) were men, and two were of other genders. Participant:s ranged in age from 18 to 103 years (m=62.4, SD=19.6). According to the study, public transport-supplemented driving services are used for different purposes: for therapy and doctor’s visits, leisure activities, shopping or commuting to work. Mainly, ride services are used for short distances. The service is especially appreciated for the personal attention of the driver, the reliability and the safety. Use of ride services varies by individual. While some may rely on alternative ride services, for others they are the only option. Participants indicated that they value public transit-supplemented ride services as an important support for carrying out their daily activities and participating in society.


Study "Equal mobility thanks to public transport complementary driving services?"­hochschule­/medien/ne­ws/2023/23­1102_MM_Gl­eichberech­tigte-Mobi­litaet/ZHA­W_Studie-G­leichberec­htigte_Mob­ilitaet_vo­n_Menschen­_mit_Behin­derung_in_­der_Schwei­z-2023.pdf