Transport equity in Sri Lanka: Experiences linked to disability and older age

Elsevier, Journal of Transport and Health, Volume 18, September 2020
Tennakoon V., Wiles J., Peiris-John R., Wickremasinghe R., Kool B., Ameratunga S.
Introduction: Transport, a well-recognised determinant of health, is particularly salient to well-being and equitable health outcomes amongst older people and people living with disabilities living in low-and middle-income countries. This study explored the facilitators and barriers for safe and accessible transportation from the perspectives of older people and those living with disabilities in Sri Lanka. Methods: The community-based qualitative research study involved eight focus group discussions conducted among older people (60 years and above) and people living with disabilities (physical, sensory, learning impairment; aged 12 years and above) in the Colombo district, Sri Lanka. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data. Results: The transport challenges perceived by participants were multi-faceted and often inter-related. Participants identified barriers embedded in the built environment and transport infrastructure, such as poorly designed road systems and public vehicles, unsatisfactory services, lack of representation in road development programs, reduced opportunities for meaningful participation in the society and negative attitudes of the general public, as limitations for safe and accessible transportation. Poverty exacerbated the transport inequities experienced by the participants, affecting their quality of life and well-being. Conclusions: The study findings indicate the need for a national policy and legislative reforms that prioritise age- and disability-inclusive transport systems and infrastructure, and accessible and affordable transport modes in Sri Lanka. To ensure equitable opportunities and wellbeing, it is also imperative to foster meaningful relationships and positive societal attitudes towards older people and those living with disability.