Shadow minister criticises DfT over electric car charging accessibility

The DfT declines to answer questions over Equality Act obligations after Kerry McCarthy - the Shadow Minister for Green Transport – criticises the lack of accessible charging points

Electric car accessibility

The Department for Transport has declined our repeated invitations to state whether public chargepoint providers have a present day duty to make provision for disabled people under the Equality Act.

Auto Express is campaigning for a rapid acceleration in the provision of accessible public charging infrastructure, and we asked for a formal statement after highlighting the issue of chargepoint providers failing to comply with the Act. The DfT told us it’s not prepared to comment specifically but offered a generic statement detailing its longer-term ambitions on current accessibility. However, the Shadow Minister for Green Transport, Kerry McCarthy, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have been more forthcoming.

“Those with disabilities should never be an afterthought when it comes to infrastructure planning. It is shocking that, after years of providing taxpayer funding for the installation of electric vehicle chargepoints, the government still hasn’t set out regulations to ensure chargers are accessible,” McCarthy told Auto Express.

“The Equality Act (2010) is clear that there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure those with disabilities are not at a disadvantage. The continued lack of regulation or guidance to ensure this is the case with charging infrastructure is a clear failure of that duty by the government. This is particularly true here because alternatives to using cars might not always be available or appropriate for people with disabilities.”

The Shadow Minister said government consultation on measures to improve consumer experiences – including those with accessibility issues – closed over six months ago, with no official response.

“At a crucial time for the transition to electric vehicles, the government needs to get to grips with its role in the nationwide provision of charging infrastructure,” she added. “Lack of regulation and forward planning means many areas are still without sufficient chargepoints. In addition, chargepoints are often unreliable or difficult to use and are inaccessible for those with disabilities. The Government needs to stop dragging its feet and get on with providing the charging infrastructure we need.”

How the Department for Transport could make a difference

The DfT recently announced a package of grants worth £620m for EV cars and charging infrastructure, and with thousands of chargepoints being installed every year we asked if the Department is taking any steps to ensure recipients of its funding protect the rights of disabled people to access supported projects.

The DfT declined to offer any comment beyond its statement below, but the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the UK’s national equality body – provided an unequivocal statement on the responsibilities of chargepoint providers under current law: “EVs are vital to the fight against climate change. They must be accessible to everyone,” it said. “All businesses, including those installing public chargepoints for EVs, must make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people aren’t unfairly disadvantaged. Otherwise they risk breaking the Equality Act and being required in court to re-install more accessible chargepoints later.

“It’s important that everyone, including disabled people, has the same opportunities to do their bit to fight climate change.”

What Auto Express asked:

Does the DfT/government agree or disagree with the contention of disability campaigners that providers, installers and/or operators of public EV chargepoints have a present duty under existing Equalities Act legislation to make provision for disabled users?

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The Department for Transport response:

“We’re committed to making sure the UK’s EV charging network is accessible for all, with inclusively designed chargepoints available for drivers across the UK. 

 We have partnered with national disability charity Motability to commission the British Standards Institute (BSI) to develop accessibility standards for public electric vehicle chargepoints across the UK.

“These standards, to be finalised in summer 2022, will provide industry with guidance and drivers with a new clear definition of ‘fully accessible’, ‘partially accessible’ and ‘not accessible’ public EV chargepoints – allowing drivers to more easily identify which chargepoints are suitable for their needs.

In addition, we are seeking views through the Future of Transport Regulatory Review consultation on proposals to mandate accessibility standards for UK public chargepoints, including the area around the parked vehicle/chargepoint.”

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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