Tag Archives: transport

I’ve been left on trains and called ‘a wheelchair’ – train companies need to improve their treatment of disabled customers

This week, BBC Rip Off Britain highlights the experience of disabled passengers on trains. Far too often, inaccessible transport stops disabled people from enjoying the same opportunities as everyone else. In some cases, people have been through stressful and upsetting incidents – from train staff forgetting them to being treated like an object. In this blog, Steph shares her experiences. 

Every day across the UK 100s of disabled people are left stranded on train platforms. As a wheelchair user, I use trains frequently to go to work and to socialise. But, of course, the one thing that I’m constantly aware of when travelling is accessibility.

When it comes to train travel, both locally and nationally, train companies have issues with the way that they deal with disabled people.

If you’re disabled, you always have to plan ahead

I have to plan my journey before I go anywhere in ways that non-disabled people don’t need to, and I rely on the services of train companies to get me to my destination without a hitch but this isn’t always the reality.

There have been instances when a member of staff at my local station has been unable to put me on or take me off the train due to medical reasons. They said “Our staff will always do their best to assist customers, but there may be occasions when they do not have the physical ability to place ramps. In such circumstances, alternative transport will be arranged.”

While they do offer a taxi to take me to the next accessible station, this can take over an hour to arrive, or they ask me to phone them in advance to book travel, which isn’t always possible.

I feel panicked when assistance doesn’t show up

Sometimes, when you can book assistance, nobody shows up. There have been several times when I have booked assistance with a train company and a member of staff has failed to meet me at the station, leaving me panicked because I don’t know whether they will come and take me off before the train departs.

And it’s not just me. Ceri Smith, Policy Manager for the disability charity Scope, spoke on BBC Wiltshire in April and said that ‘1 in 5 disabled people who have booked assistance on a train only to find that there isn’t assistance to get off the train at their arrival station’.

This is a very simple part of the service I expect as a disabled person. But when this occurs, I am left questioning why I should book assistance in the first place if this need can’t be met.

Steph a disabled woman smiling, sitting in her wheelchair in front of a radiator and white wall

I can’t use some train stations, so journeys take a lot longer

Not being able to go to a station due to lack of physical access is also an issue. My local train company, has a policy in place to order a taxi to take me to the next available station. This sounds like a good idea in practice, but the reality I’ve found to be completely different.

I went to Port Sunlight on a trip to the theatre and I found out at Central Station that it wasn’t accessible. It really baffled me that this is the case as Port Sunlight is a prominent tourist attraction.

I needed to travel to the nearest accessible station and get a taxi from there. There weren’t any accessible taxis available, and so the suggestion was to get one from Liverpool which would take over an hour at least.

Things like this are a real inconvenience to me.

Things are improving, but there’s more to be done

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t staff who do their jobs well and provide great service for disabled people because there are and that certainly has been the case for me.

There has been improvement. Under the Access for All programme, introduced in 2006, The Guardian stated that ‘150 stations have been upgraded to remove barriers to independent travel, including by installing signs, ramps and lifts. A further 68 are under construction or in development.’ But, at the same time, I feel that disabled people are still not being taken seriously across the board when it comes to train travel.

It would be fantastic to see train companies work with disabled people directly to ensure that the policies they offer, when it comes to an element of the journey not being accessible, are realistic. And if they aren’t, they need to find an alternative that really works.

Also, the attitudes and terminology staff use towards disabled people who travel by train are important too. I’m not an object, so don’t call me a ‘wheelchair’. Instead, use the term ‘wheelchair user’, it’s far more appropriate.

We want to feel empowered, respected and valued just like non- disabled people. There’s progress that is being made, but there is so much more that needs to be done.

Keep the conversation going on Twitter by sharing your experiences, tagging @Scope and using the hashtag #RipOffBritain.

Or join the discussion on our online community.

A driver wouldn’t let me on the bus. When I complained, they offered me a job – #100days100stories

Guest post by Jean from London. Jean has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition which means she is prone to muscle tears and dislocated joints. She uses a wheelchair most of the time. Jean is an active campaigner for disability rights. She is sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

At the beginning of 2013, I had to put a complaint in to a London bus company because a driver refused to deploy the ramp and let me on.

Instead of dismissing my complaint, the company actually asked me to go in and speak to the management about how disabled passengers should be treated.

Then they asked me to go in again and speak to the bus drivers – and after a couple of months they said, “How would you feel about us paying you for it?”

Jean holding the catBefore that, I hadn’t been able to work for seven years. Part of the time this was because I was unwell, but for a lot of the time it was because employers weren’t prepared to support my needs or make adaptations.

A couple of places I applied even offered to give me an interview, but then withdrew the offer because their offices weren’t wheelchair accessible. It was ridiculous.

Getting support

My new bosses have been really supportive, even offering to contribute towards a new reclining wheelchair, which I will need at work.

However, when I applied for funding from Access to Work for a support worker and a better wheelchair, I was rejected.

One of their reasons was that I wouldn’t be working enough hours, and would still need to claim benefits. But how am I supposed to build up my hours, and start to come off benefits, without the right level of support and equipment?

At the moment, my fiancé has to take me to work and act as my carer. It is difficult – we find it hard to balance his being my partner and being my employee. When he doesn’t do things how I want them, it feels very hard to tell him so.

Add in his own health issues, and wanting to pursue his own interests which have to constantly be put on a back burner, and it causes conflict in our private time.

I felt this was unfair so I appealed, and with the help of my MP I was successful in getting funding. I’m now in the process of finding a support worker, and Access to Work also paid towards the cost of the wheelchair and a small travel allowance.

My work

I’ve looked at how the company views and treats disabled passengers, and made some recommendations for improvements.

I’ve also run disability awareness training for bus drivers. We simulate various impairments – such as being blind or mobility impaired – and ask staff to try to move around inside the bus while it is in motion. It demonstrates how difficult travelling can be for disabled passengers.

I go to conferences and events, and we do a lot of work with mental health and learning disability charities.

One thing I’ve noticed is that disabled people will come and speak to me because they see me in a wheelchair. The fact that I have an understanding of what their situation might be seems to make a big difference.

My work is challenging, fun and rewarding, and it brings confidence and self-worth. I feel like I’m contributing something and making an improvement. Even though the majority of my income is still benefit-based, I am hoping that I can slowly build up my hours.

My employers saw something in me and built a new role around my abilities, and are investing quite heavily in me to ensure I have everything I need to fulfil my potential. I love it.

Read the rest of the stories in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Public transport could be accessible for everyone – #100days100stories

Conrad Tokarczyk is a fitness instructor and a wheelchair user who trains disabled and non-disabled people on how to stay in shape. He also has a passion for campaigning and here he tells us why accessible tube transport in London is so important to him.

We’re sharing his story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign

Conrad_nI first became interested in making transport more accessible for disabled people when I got stuck in traffic on two occasions whilst driving to job interviews.  I lost out on great job opportunities because I arrived so late. I use a wheelchair and there are no step-free stations near me so I have to drive everywhere, which takes so much longer than the tube.

There have been many occasions when I have been forced to travel separately from friends to social events which left me feeling very isolated. However when I lost out on those two job opportunities it was a turning point as I was so frustrated. I decided that rather just except things or leave it to others to do something.  I decided to try to change things myself.

I wanted to make my local tube station step-free so that everyone could use it.  My campaign started with an online petition, which is often a great way to attract supporters. The petition was signed by people from all over the world, including Germany, the United States, Canada and Australia.  This really helped raise the profile of my campaign.

Training

Scope has supported me to go on a campaigns training course which has really helped me improve my skills and learn how to use the best tools and tactics to become a successful campaigner.

My campaign for accessible tube transport has received a lot support from the public and from politicians all across the political spectrum and my local council of Hillingdon has been particularly helpful in looking for ways of funding better tube access.

Next steps

There have been improvements in access to transport over the years but still only a quarter of Tube stations in London are step-free. We all could and should do more as step free access is good for everyone.

I shall keep on campaigning and I know that we will get there in the end and hopefully all tube stations will be step-free one day soon.

Get involved in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read our stories so far.

Trendsetters Blog by Bradley Roper aged 12

Guest post from Bradley Roper, aged 12.

The day after Kayne and I appeared in the BBC1 programme, Racing with the Hamiltons, I was a bit late for school so my Nan said, “Let’s catch the bus.”

The first Bus Driver wouldn’t let us on and wagged his finger at us. We are used to this and I had discussed my experience of bus drivers’ attitudes with Nic Hamilton on the TV programme the night before.

My Nan stormed away with steam coming out of her ears. Then a bus hooted behind and pulled up beside us. The bus was ‘out of service’ and the Bus Driver called out to us: “Where are you going?”

I said, “To school.”

He said, “OK, I’ll drop you off – I am going to change your opinion of bus drivers.”

Although the bus stop is near the school, he drove right down to literally outside the school gates – he had obviously seen the programme!!