The state government could be liable to compensation claims after it failed to make a legislated minimum number of train stations "fully accessible" to people with disabilities.
Disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes said anyone aggrieved by poor access at a station could now have a complaint investigated by the Human Rights Commission.
If those complaints could not be resolved by conciliations measures, Mr Innes said complainants could pursue damages in court.
‘‘In my own capacity as a private citizen, I was awarded significant damages when RailCorp didn’t comply with a standard,’’ Mr Innes said.
‘‘The expectation is that a similar thing would occur if the government hasn’t complied with these standards.
‘‘If the figure is as the government says and it hasn’t met the minimum requirement, then the opportunity is opened for people with a disability who are aggrieved to lodge complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act and allege that the government by their own information has breached the standards.’’
The state’s railway authority was ordered to pay $10,000 to Mr Innes, who complained it was discriminating against visually impaired people by failing to provide audible announcements.
Mr Innes said he was giving that money to charity.
His comments came after it was revealed in the Sun last month that just 42.7 per cent of greater Sydney’s 307 train stations had been made wheelchair accessible by December last year.
Successive governments have been required to make 55 per cent of stations ‘‘fully accessible’’ to all people with disabilities by the end of 2012, under the Accessible Public Transport Standards Act 2002.
‘‘This is pretty disappointing,’’ Mr Innes said, ‘‘governments around Australia have known for 10 years what the requirements were ... it’s not like this is new.’’
‘‘The standards were negotiated with state and federal governments and the expectation was that governments would set a good example.
‘‘Most governments expect private operators to comply with the law and many of them make it one of the requirements of their contracts with private transport operators, so it sounds like one rule for them, one rule for us.’’
Monika Kaska, who suffers from lupus, plans to complain about the conditions at Toongabbie station to the commission.
The painful climb up and down the ramp and stairs at the station took her 15 to 20 minutes, she said.
‘‘This would give me another option to get a lift put in there,’’ she said.
‘‘So I’ll hopefully get to some people who can push this forward and get access for me.’’
A spokesman for Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the former Labor government was to blamed for poor access at Sydney stations.
But, he said, Ms Berejiklian had started 50 projects that when completed would make 58 per cent of stations accessible.
‘‘This government has made a huge commitment to making stations more accessible after years of neglect by Labor,’’ she said.
Ms Berejiklian said her government would invest $770 million in station infrastructure over four years.”