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Paralympian 'robbed of dignity' due to lack of disabled toilet access on train

Chris_AlumniChris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 695 Pioneering
edited January 2017 in Disabled people
If you've been following the news today, you may have seen that Team GB Paralympian wheelchair racer Anne Wafula Strike was recently left with no choice but to urinate on herself due to a train company failing to provide an accessible toilet during a three-hour journey.

The athlete and MBE told the Guardian, "“I was completely robbed of my dignity by the train company... Having access to a toilet, especially in a developed nation like the UK, is one of the most basic rights."

She went on to say that she made the decision to go public, "in the hope that it will bring about change for other people with disabilities who want to contribute to society but are prevented from doing so."

Have you experienced difficulty using the UK rail network due to lack of accessible toilet provision? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


  • newmenewme Member Posts: 1 Listener
    edited January 2017
    Yes, was traumatised after spending 4 hours trapped in a train alongside a drunken group of young men. I have Aspergers and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and a prolapse, and need frequent access to toilet. I also suffer from recurrent UTIs

    I had been helped onto the train by staff, despite it being packed out, as there was space in this carriage, and I had a member of staff with me for part of the journey, but she then left unexpectedly just outside London, so she could get to workplace.

    It was a day of floods, so London was difficult to access. I left about 1/2 day earlier than planned, in order to try and make my connection. I missed it all the same, and this despite spending a fortune on taxis I could not afford, to get across London to try make the connection. And this was a work gig!

    There was a group of men who came on the train with a box of beer carried high, with the clear intention of getting drunk, but no-one in the staff did anything to question this. once drunk, they then harassed some of us in the carriage, and I was one of the people targeted.

    Nothing was done to help, or challenge this. It was very scary for me, and I couldn't move away as there wasn't space anywhere else. Also we were prevented from leaving the train that was a standstill for hours.

    They proceeded to block the toliet as it became literally overflowing with their urine etc. as they were drunk and using it like a pub loo on a Saturday night. I tried to go but couldn't and risked infection if I did (from splashback), and infection if I didn't go (UTI history). It was a truly memorable experience.

    I and others eventually negotiated to leave the train and in the station there was no toilet. I was lucky enough to be able to get to a pub who was kind enough to help me get to a toilet eventually, before I had a fully irretrievable situation.

    At that moment everyone left the train en masse too, again fairly terrifying for me; and I was alone in a very crowded space, without assistance.

    I tried several times to get a reimbursement from Anglia Trains but their system kept not working and it was actually so traumatising to recount each time, either online, or on phone, that I gave up.

    I already find travelling alone extremely challenging, and am glad in airports that I can get proper assistance. It's a joke when travelling by rail. In general the poor staff feel obliged to do lifting and carrying that is not safe for anyone and the companies aren't interested in helping disabled passengers, beyond a few ramps etc. None of them seem to have had training in special needs.

    I think the paralympian was so brave for sharing her story and it's encouraged me to speak up here. It's exhausting having to explain time and again some basic needs that one may have.

    I avoid trains now, due to this experience, if I can, and certainly go out of my way to avoid London if I can too as it presents such a challenge to me now.
  • Chris_AlumniChris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 695 Pioneering
    Hi @newme, thank you so much for sharing your story, I appreciate it must have been hard to tell it again. That certainly does sound like a nightmare journey, and I'm sorry to hear of the troubles you had. Thank you again for  your bravery in sharing, and perhaps it will in turn inspire others to tell their stories.
  • sazbrisdionsazbrisdion Member Posts: 3 Listener
    This amazing lady speaking up about her ordeal is brilliant. It is going to raise so much awareness of the every day things that disabled people have to endure that most able bodied people would be appalled at. My son has Cerebral Palsy and needs a bench and hoist in a disabled toilet, otherwise he is forced to either lie on the toilet floor (horrific) to have his nappy removed and be dangerously lifted to the floor and back up again, or he has to sit in his own mess. We cannot travel by train. There are no such facilities on trains or in any of the train stations on the routes we would frequent. It's about time this got some real media coverage and the government stepped up to enforce the laws in place to protect us from having to live like this. Thousands of people have to endure degrading, undignified and unhygienic situations like this every day. Or they cannot go out at all. 
  • CaderMacCaderMac Member Posts: 105 Pioneering
    Yet another example from the lovely Samantha Renke here https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/03/i-feared-for-my-health-disabled-actor-tells-of-nightmare-train-journey?CMP=share_btn_tw Whilst it is awful to hear of these horrible experiences it is at least a positive thing that these issues are being brought to light (at last!) in the media. Experiences such as these aren't limited to public transport either, so hopefully the fact that these brave accounts are being recognised will mean the start of a postive change change across society as a whole. 
  • Sam_AlumniSam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,729 Disability Gamechanger
    It's just appalling  :(
    Senior online community officer
  • Rainbow_wheelz16Rainbow_wheelz16 Member Posts: 30 Community champion
    If you've been following the news today, you may have seen that Team GB Paralympian wheelchair racer Anne Wafula Strike was recently left with no choice but to urinate on herself due to a train company failing to provide an accessible toilet during a three-hour journey.

    The athlete and MBE told the Guardian, "“I was completely robbed of my dignity by the train company... Having access to a toilet, especially in a developed nation like the UK, is one of the most basic rights."

    She went on to say that she made the decision to go public, "in the hope that it will bring about change for other people with disabilities who want to contribute to society but are prevented from doing so."

    Have you experienced difficulty using the UK rail network due to lack of accessible toilet provision? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
    This is terrible! It is everyone's basic human right to be able to access a toilet. People can be very ignorant and inconsiderate, 
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Member Posts: 133 Courageous
    Hi, from Fm. Don't mention train toilets, I often find myself having to travel in them to escape the absolutely appalling and excruciating noise of a few grossly inconsiderate passengers and some staff on trains. I only use the one service now which goes to the seaside about 30 miles from where I live as the trains on that route have vestibules where I normally travel and they have powered internal doors that close off the saloon but sometimes they're not working and the train shouldn't be in service like that but they don't care and if I complain I just get ignored which infuriates me and sometimes the train staff insist on keeping them open so I have to threaten to pull the emergency handle to get them closed which I shouldn't have to do. And needless to say this is all in serious breach of the so-called "disabled passenger's protection policy" which is a waste of space in my experience as they just don't bother with it and they obviously don't recognise misophonia as a disability which it most definitely is especially as it easily meets the definition of disability as stated in the "equality" act, as also does severe heat intolerance. And far too many, almost all trains are now "all open" inside with no essential segregated quiet areas which makes them inaccessible to me but no-one wants to know. It seems to me that train operators only recognise white sticks and wheelchairs as disability which is just not good enough and needs to seriously change. And where I travel the operator insists on running too short a train at peak times and the longer trains for the rest of the day when they're almost empty which is just plain stupid so I have to avoid travelling at peak times as the vestibules will be full of rowdy passengers because they can't get a seat because of the stupid policy of running too short a train at times of peak demand, how ridiculously stupid is that? And once again if I complain they just don't want to know, perhaps I should go on facebook and make a fuss about it there. Fm.
  • mossycowmossycow Member Posts: 495 Pioneering
    It's so important yet I don't know what to say. 

    How can we make this better? How can we help each other and shout loud enough that we are heard?  

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Member Posts: 133 Courageous
    Hi from Fm. The only way I know is serious mass protest and of course we now have "social" media if you can get your head round it, I find it too complicated. The previous generation of disabled folk protested and got the DDA and now it looks like we might have to do it again as the so-called "equality" act is never properly enforced and service providers and authorities are getting away with all manner of outrageous breaches. Why should anyone be prevented from travelling or using a library because of disability as I am? This is 21st century Britain not the stone age! Fm.
  • anaqianaqi Member Posts: 54 Courageous
    I don't think most people realise how difficult it is travelling by train if you're a wheelchair user.  Firstly you can't buy a disabled ticket online, you have to either buy your tickets over the phone and reserve a wheelchair space and assistance, or buy your tickets online and then phone up the assistance line and pray that no-one else has already reserved the spot otherwise you lose your money.  Then you have to hope there is assistance at the stations to help you get on and off the train safely.  And even if you have booked a wheelchair space you have to hope that no-one has already taken the space or ignored the signs and dumped their bags there.  Then if you do manage to get on the train you have to move people's bags out of the way so you can get to the toilet.  It can be a logistical nightmare!  Surely it can't be that hard to make trains accessible for all.
  • Sam_AlumniSam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,729 Disability Gamechanger
    @anaqi that is ridiculous, I had no idea it was such a difficult thing just to book the tickets! What do you think needs to happen to improve the service?
    Senior online community officer
  • anaqianaqi Member Posts: 54 Courageous
    It would be better if you had the option to reserve disabled seating online, but then you'd still have to telephone the train operator's assistance line to let the stations know in advance that you'll be travelling in a wheelchair so they can arrange for someone to get ramps so you can actually get on and off the train.
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Member Posts: 133 Courageous

    Hi from Fm. Some trains already carry wheelchair ramps, I don't know if they all do. When I go rafting at the seaside I take my boat in a big holdall bag which sits in a big plastic garden trolley which occupies almost the same space as a wheelchair and I've found it's best to try and avoid peak times or travelling when there's a big event or a football match on at one or more of the places where the train goes to because then it will be packed and in my experience it will be full of dreadfully arrogant and disrespectful folk at those times so avoid whenever possible. If you have to travel on the same day as such an event then try and find out what time of day will be quieter and try and travel as early as possible. The train operating company should know when is the best time of day to travel but obviously you don't want to go too late in the day, especially if you're going a long way. I've so far not clashed with anyone in a wheelchair or a scooter, it's usually cyclists who get in my way and I've been going rafting for nearly 19 years. Fm.

  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Member Posts: 133 Courageous
    Hi from Fm again. I've only just read newme's story and I find it absolutely appalling. I'd like to know where were the railway police on such a day? Their phone no. is: 0800 40 50 40. This is why I think we need a much more hardline regime in at least some circumstances in this country then appalling situations like this would be far less likely to happen and would be far better controlled or even prevented. Britain has unfortunately gone too far down too many wrong roads and has become far too ridiculously liberal and when that happens then it breeds a whole culture of appalling disrespect and blatant contempt and hatred and that's why we get such appalling situations as described above. I myself have also suffered such appalling situations and that is why I believe in having a much stricter regime all round. We can still have democracy but it needs tightening up in many areas, some more than others. One such really important area is schools. Our kids need to be taught more about disability including hidden disabilities including those like I have and secondary schools need to be much tougher followed by some kind of compulsory disciplinary service after leaving school. Some countries have compulsory care work for school leavers and this to me seems a good idea as it gives youngsters first hand experience of those less fortunate and teaches them a thing or two about morals. Fm.
  • Andy_D_2017Andy_D_2017 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    My use of a wheelchair on trains is a relatively new activity but my experience has been mixed. The booked assistance system is on the whole good but it is flawed and does not accommodate train delays or cancellations, at which point your assistance booking seems to get lost unless you pick up the phone and try and recover the situation with customer services. This happened to me on a recent trip and the result seems to be a train manager whom is not expecting a person in a wheelchair on the platform, ok, I can partly accept this, but because we are disabled do we have to plan and book every aspect of our lives? This did however require the pleading of another passenger for the train manager to get the ramp out of the train (more trains seem to be carrying these) and get me on board. Once on the train the the experience seemed to be unfold into unacceptable. Most trains have now been adapted to take wheelchairs which is good, but yes you guessed it, the wheelchair space was full of luggage as per the attached photo. Now the portable wheelchair ramp lived here too and the train manager struggled to put it back in its home, and then looked at me in my chair and said 'they should not be there' then walked off. At this point I was lost in emotion and words. The remaining hour was spent in the corridor gangway, noisy and cold and no access to a toilet because the connecting section of the carriages was too narrow for me to get through to the other. The assistance at my interchange station appeared and the experience to being put on the train was very good. At my destination however, it all fell apart, searching for scarce staff to get me off the train. This situation can be distressing in itself. Now bear in mind my assistance booking was for assistance off the train, help with luggage, and assistance to the concourse to get a taxi. Sadly I was dumped on the platform and my wife was left to struggle with the luggage on her own. Now for any of you who know London Euston there is a large ramp from the platforms to the concourse. I was absolutely pooped getting up there any very hot and bothered.
    In another instance, it is good that trains are now getting fitted with accessible toilets, but one particular day it was out of service and I peed myself, not much fun after a long day. I also live in a rural area and most stations now are un-staffed and have no toilets so you rely on the train so much more. Due to my event I complained to the train company and the response left me a gasp, also attached. Now as this is intended as a disabled facility, I am not sure how this should be approached and further action taken, ie the rail regulator. Each rail company has a disabled persons protection policy which is supposed to protect your right to travel.
    In conclusion this is a brief insight into my experiences, but it must be said that there are good staff out there which do an exceptional job, but the disabled travel system by rail is not robust. It is also clear that staff require further training and the authority to govern and protect disabled facilities for the users they are intended for. Is ignorance at play here, possibly not, before chronic illness and mobility issues some things even I was blind too.
    Maybe if staff used a wheelchair as training they might gain the insight into the disabled world.
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Member Posts: 133 Courageous
    Hi from Fm. Did you know that that train operator has had more complaints than all the others? It doesn't surprise me one bit given how they treat me. And it should be compulsory to have wheelchair accessible toilets on all trains and the wheelchair space should be right next to the toilets, that should be a minimum requirement. I think you should take it further, try transport focus or your MP. And I hope some MP's read this and learn from it. This is 21st century Britain not the stone age! Once again it looks like the so-called "equality" act and the so-called "disabled passenger's protection policy" are not being enforced anywhere near enough as is all too often the case, so why do we have such things if they're not going to be properly enforced? And since people generally use trains for much longer distances than they do on buses I think equally accessible toilets should be compulsory and not just a so-called "luxury". And the idea of getting off the train to use a toilet is a nonsense as far too many train stations in this country don't have any, the local one where I live doesn't but luckily there is a big supermarket next door and they have proper toilets so I sometimes have to go in there which means I have to get there well early so I don't miss the train. This once again looks like a good reason for mass protest, non violent of course. Some trains have been fitted with accessible toilets since they were built back in the eighties so there's no excuse for train operators not fitting them more recently as it's obviously something that's been known about for decades and longer trains should have more than one and there should be far stricter rules against blocking wheelchair spaces and toilets and there should be a total outright blanket ban on all alcohol and drunkenness on trains and there should be more railway police available at busy times especially on football match days and they should be on the trains on such days. And there needs to be more segregated quiet areas on trains especially as some folk in wheelchairs are also likely to be sensitive to the arrogant noise of some inconsiderate passengers. Fm.
  • nanof6nanof6 Member Posts: 200 Pioneering
    yes i was on the train to paddington, had to change trains, because the train was running late they put me in 1st class,once on board to get into the carrage was very tight, once forced in the narrow door i couldn't except free drinks because i wouldn't have been able to get to the loo, then the guard tells me we are getting new trains next week,with 2 guards at separate times telling me they would phone ahead to make sure of my booking i was left on the train.

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