RE: Alt/Life
Jul 20, 2020

Public Transport Authority accused of discrimination of coloured tactile paving cones, putting yellow cones at a disproportionate risk of injury.

Controversy has swamped the PTA over the last 24 hours as claims of discrimination against yellow tactile cones is rife within the department. This comes just days after a yellow tactile cone, working as a line that people were asked to stand behind, was dislodged and fell into the path of an oncoming train causing severe injury to the government employee.

Calls have been made for the head of the PTA to be fired from their position after an internal directive has been made public exposing long running cost cutting policies, even in the face of their own reports declaring potentially unsafe conditions and the potential of discrimination abuse. One such directive, under the guise of supporting diversity, specifically called for yellow tactile paving cones to be forced to be employed as a safety line as a way of reducing costs, even though most of the cones did not have the qualifications needed to perform such a role. Furthermore, no policy was put in place to have these cones retrained except for a 5 minute talk by regional managers.

Initially the 'Stand behind the yellow line' campaign was released with much fanfare, lauded as the PTA showing their support and encouraging users to 'get behind' the yellow cone community. But with the release of these internal documents, it has been shown to be little more than a dog-whistle to the far right, a statement not in support of the marginalised but one enforcing the dangerous position the yellow cones find themselves; on the frontline, the first to get injured.

Yellow cone community leaders have long pleaded to have their concerns amplified in the wider community, pointing to a history of society just using and discarding the yellow cones without any regard to their welfare. "This tragedy was inevitable and preventable and shows that it is a less a sign of neglect by those in power but a deliberate decision to target our members, further entrenching old and prejudiced community beliefs about us. Our lives mean less to them. Why is it that our call for justice and equality is the controversy and not the high risk jobs that we, as yellow cones, are forced to work in?"

But it's not just the PTA coming under fire for these events, as eyes have also been turned towards both the vision impaired and user safety groups.


The main organisation representing vision impaired groups has tried to distance themselves from the furore, despite some declaring them the obvious beneficiaries of having tactile paving cones employed on platforms and footpaths. In a press release made on their website, they rejected the notion that its members had any say on what colour the cones were, or that they have benefitted from years of potential discrimination towards the yellow cones.

"Let us be clear", the statement read, "that walking aids for the blind, or guide dogs, do not distinguish between the colour of the cones, so to call the blind 'colourists' is patently absurd. This has, and always has been, a decision made by the PTA with no input from us. Of course it is distressing to our members to learn that a visual aid that was initially created to benefit them has been co-opted by discriminatory and prejudiced members of society, but if you take a moment to actually listen to us, we rarely thought the cones benefited us to begin with; there has always been issues with the tactile cone initiative."

The body representing PTA users declined to comment, but they have historically been supportive of any measure that increased the safety of the public transport users, even if that may impact on other user groups or employees.

But while the government and interested parties seek to move forward from what has been a difficult time, there are some who have used the opportunity to push alternative narratives in support of the status quo. Senator Joan Hancock is one of those rejecting any notion of discrimination in the PTA.

The Senator, known for their controversial far right views, has accused people of playing identity politics, defending the PTA decision as just being logical. Appearing on the early morning television show SunUp, she declared that it "just made sense that some coloured cones were better suited to be closer to the platform edge". "This argument is stupid", she said during her appearance. "They are there for a reason, and if they don't like it they should just stop being lazy and get another job. We have enough tactile cones in this country as it is, and we have this lot just wanting to make trouble for everyone by playing the colour card. When will it end?".

Her comments were quickly condemn by the state government with the Minister for Public Transport releasing a statement that the government does not in anyway endorse Senator Hancock's opinion. "Of course the Senator could not be any more wrong on this. We take serious any risk to our public servants, regardless of colour, and to shrug off these concerns as merely left wing politics is insensitive and dangerous."

A PTA union representative welcomed the comments from the government, however also spoke of the deep frustration many of its yellow coned members feel as issues around discrimination are seemingly handballed off between these groups, with few taking enough responsibility to enact any change.

Scientists also seem divided on the matter of using yellow cones as lines, with some saying the yellow cones were just inherently better suited for high visibility roles due to their colour, while many others say that the verdict is still out, pointing to the orange cones as a group with just as much visibility, even in wet weather. The union member highlighted this in their response to our inquiries. "Clearly this has been a cost cutting policy gone wrong, and we should all learn from it. While it may be claimed they [yellow cones] are just as visible as orange [cones], there's yet to be a valid argument made as to why a line couldn't have been just painted on the platform. Why were yellow cones needed in such a high risk position to begin with? There is more to this than just colour, and it smells of mismanagement all the way up through the government."

The family of the yellow tactile cone injured in the train accident chose not answer this reporter's enquiries. It is understood they are seeking legal advice and will make an official statement at another time.