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Disabled people don’t feel entitled to public transport

anne20_strikeanne20_strike Member Posts: 1 Listener
edited October 2019 in Guest blogs

Anne is a semi-retired Paralympic athlete, author, disability and inclusion campaigner and a sporting ambassador. She believes it’s important to challenge misconceptions about disability and advocates for fairness within society.


For me to get from A to B I need public transport. However, as a wheelchair user this comes with so many complications and barriers, making me unable to travel as independently as I would like. Even at my age and with my experience of travelling, I am often left feeling nervous and with little confident whenever I board a train, fly, use a taxi or a bus.

We can do better

In 2016, I suffered humiliation when I had an accident whilst travelling on train due to the accessible toilet being out of order. I still have not recovered from the depressing experience when I wet myself while on the train. I remember covering my head in shame, with my gaze stopping at the disabled toilet ‘out of order’ sign. I was mortified that I was seated next to a facility meant for my use, but I couldn’t use it. This is a basic human need.

Last year I was ‘forgotten’ on an EasyJet flight. The plane had landed later than scheduled and as usual I was left to wait for pre-booked assistance to disembark. On this occasion, I was left with no communication about when they’d arrive. The flight attendants, including the pilots, had no idea what was going on. This lack of communication caused that flights turnaround to be significantly slower and really disrupted my journey.

On numerous occasions I haven’t been able to attend important meetings due to companies failing to have contingency plans in place for their cancellations. I remember being on a train when it announced that it was cancelled, every passenger got off train and I was left stranded. I had to wedge my wheelchair between doors to attract attention from the train driver.

 

Transport companies can do more, which would allow disabled people to travel like every other passenger.

Travel assistance

I am a wheelchair user and a lack of adequate access means I can’t just travel spontaneously.

The process of booking train assistance is stressful and time-consuming and it’s a challenge when you must book each journey in advance. Even then, 30% of the time it does not go to plan. Despite me booking a ramp or wheelchair space on trains, I am still often left to rely on the sympathy of other passengers to lift me in my wheelchair off trains or to call for assistance from the staff who were supposed to be aware I needed help. Over time you get used to being disabled and you adapt to some form of independence. However, it’s humiliating when you have to rely on people’s ‘kindness’ through no fault of my own and I often worry about their health and safety.

Whenever I am in London, I have to ask a colleague or a passer-by to flag down a black cab for me, this is because on several occasions the taxi has just gone past me. For example, it was only last week that a taxi driver went to stop for a colleague, but then the driver quickly drove off when he realised I was the one wanting to the taxi. Based on this experience, it would appear that my money isn’t worth as much as everyone else’s.

Travelling like everyone else

Disabled people just want to have a choice when travelling. All transport companies provide help for those that need it, but it’s often not well known or the service isn’t consistent and flexible enough to adapt to the needs of disabled people.

 

To be honest, there’s progress being made towards fair and inclusive transport but it’s not on par with the other developments we see in this century. It is very slow and disabled people want to see change happening a lot faster.

We’re denied the right to travel every day and often made to feel as inconveniences. This isn’t just appalling from a disability rights standpoint, but a failure to recognise that disability is an essential part of diversity rights. It’s not the disability that disables me, but how society treats and the lack of help to break down barriers like not being able to access public transport.

Scope's campaigning to help make travel fair. Tell us what promises you want to see public transport companies make in order to make it easier for disabled people to travel.

If you need information, try Scope's advice and support for travel and public transport.

It appears a right to travel is given to everyone else but not the disabled person, why is this? Have you experienced discrimination while using public transport? Let us know in the comments below!

Replies

  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 2,869 Member
    We rarely travel. But yes we have experienced disability discrimination. Last winter whilst on a vacation, my son's braces was damaged in transit. I complained to the airline afterwards. At the airport, we learned his leg braces were damaged due to improper handling techniques by airport security people. We now have a new pair of braces. Now I watch carefully to make sure they are not damaged.  
  • AilsAils Member Posts: 2,268 Disability Gamechanger
    Thanks @anne20_strike for highlighting this really important subject in your guest blog.  I'm sorry to hear that you have had such traumatic journeys at times which just simply isn't good enough!  Disabled people have every right to be treated with respect and without facing obstacles when travelling.  I have booked train travel in the past and find it also to be a lengthy process and sometimes it can still fall through!  I have booked assistance in the past on trains only to find there is no ramp at all and finding myself waiting on the next train so that I can get one.  I can also relate to your experience of flying as I have found myself waiting on the assistance people to help me off the plane without knowing when they are going to turn up for me.  You are correct in saying that more should be getting done from the travel companies to make the process so much easier for disabled people.  We should not be treated like second class citizens.  
    Winner of the Scope New Volunteer Award 2019.   :)
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 2,869 Member
    Ails said:
    Thanks @anne20_strike for highlighting this really important subject in your guest blog.  I'm sorry to hear that you have had such traumatic journeys at times which just simply isn't good enough!  Disabled people have every right to be treated with respect and without facing obstacles when travelling.  I have booked train travel in the past and find it also to be a lengthy process and sometimes it can still fall through!  I have booked assistance in the past on trains only to find there is no ramp at all and finding myself waiting on the next train so that I can get one.  I can also relate to your experience of flying as I have found myself waiting on the assistance people to help me off the plane without knowing when they are going to turn up for me.  You are correct in saying that more should be getting done from the travel companies to make the process so much easier for disabled people.  We should not be treated like second class citizens.  
    I agree! In December of 2017, I was on a train from Epsom to Ewell. A man sat behind me, he said hello and we briefly chatted about topics that were important to us. One of the topics was clubbed feet. He happened to see my babies in their pram. He also looked at my son's casts and asked me ”Does he have clubbed feet”?

    When I said yes, he said he worked with children with clubbed foot, and explained that he worked for a hospital that uses the Ponseti method. He treated my disabled child with respect and kindness. I was so happy. It can be done. This is why awareness is so vital honestly. He didn't patronize me or my children either. I hate it when people do that.

    Have you signed the petition created by @Ami2301 yet or not? 
  • wilkowilko Member Posts: 2,297 Disability Gamechanger
    To all self propelled wheel chair users a thank you, I am not a full chair user having access to Mobility scooters but bought a wheel chair so I can use buses with my wife.  Using the chair on my own while waiting outside shops I found it tiring to use just for the short times I tried and today, the day after my arms hurt and my wife’s back is hurting. So you have my admiration for the stamina you have in getting about on your own, you make it look so easy but when an abled bodied try’s it we soon realise how hard and difficult it actually is . Having giving up my mobility scooter for a mornings shopping it’s not a thing I shall opt to do until I need to. 
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