Guest post from Conrad Tokarczyk. Conrad and double Paralympic gold Medallist Natasha Baker MBE are both from Hillingdon in London. Natasha is supporting Conrad’s campaign to make all their local tube and train stations accessible to disabled people within five years.
In the aftermath of London’s 2012 Paralympics, awareness of disability issues is supposedly on the rise. But access to public transport still remains a major obstacle for disabled people. The effect this has on people’s lives is not being taken seriously.
The term “public transport” by definition suggests that it is a service for everyone. But as many people reading this will know, many stations have large flights of stairs leading to the platform and no lift. This makes it impossible for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues to get around.
In my home borough of Hillingdon in London the majority of tube and train stations are inaccessible to wheelchair users like me, so I’ve launched a petition calling on decision makers to improve access.
Why it it such a big problem?
I’ve had to turn down certain jobs which I couldn’t get to using public transport. And it’s not just about work. Many people miss medical appointments, trips out with friends, and have difficulty getting to college – all the normal everyday things they want to do.
Driving is sometimes an option. I drive, and I have a Blue Badge, which should help with parking. But in London journey times can be nightmarish, twice as long as public transport, and parking in central London is difficult and expensive. Taxi rides are also incredibly costly.
Many generations of disabled people have been prevented from leading fulfilling and independent lives as a consequence of poor access to public transport. Politicians need to take action now to improve the accessibility of our transport network. If they continue to dither on the issue, yet another generation of young disabled people like me will miss out.
Where will the money come from?
Politicians often cite a lack of funds as the reason improvements can’t be made, which is why our petition is also asking decision makers to publish the costs of making the UK transport network accessible.
In January this year politicians spent £250,000 on portraits of themselves; last year MP’s spent £13,000 refurbishing the House of Commons Strangers bar; and in 2012, politicians spent £400,000 of taxpayers’ money renting dozens of trees to decorate their offices! I think it’s unfair that the purse strings are tighter when it comes to spending on issues that could improve the lives of disabled people.
If, like me, these acts of self indulgence make your blood boil, please take a moment to sign the petition calling for decision makers to take the views of disabled people seriously.