You see me waiting at the bus stop and I try to search your face for a clue as to which camp you fit into. You see, you fit into two camps and sometimes I can’t tell until you pull up and open the doors. All the time, I’m filled with dread and anxiousness, wondering if this time I’ll have a fight on my hands. Whether I’ll be welcomed or made to feel like a complete and utter nuisance. Quite often it’s the latter.
Some of you are friendly, welcoming and seem to understand that I have as much right as anyone else to use public transport. You go out of your way to gently lower the ramp for me, to ask where I’m getting off and to make sure that the wheelchair space is clear. If it’s occupied by a pushchair, you politely ask them to move or fold it up. You kindly help me to position my chair into the sometimes stupidly difficult spaces which aren’t really suitable for wheelchairs at all. When I get off, you share a friendly word and wish me well. I feel like a valued passenger.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel as welcomed by some of your uneducated colleagues who openly grimace when they see me waiting for their bus. One of two things can happen at this point. They either refuse to let me on, saying their bus is too full or that the wheelchair space is full. They seemed to have completely missed the memo that the wheelchair space is for the use of wheelchair users and that this is law. They refuse to ask other passengers to move, for fear that heaven forbid, their bus might end up late or their shift might overrun.
Or they make it crystal clear that I’m a nuisance for needing their assistance. They huff and puff as they climb out of their cab, then slam the ramp down in front of me. They don’t care if other passengers are blocking the wheelchair space, which I’m supposed to reverse into. That’s my problem, I’m supposed to ensure I’m safe and ask fellow passengers to move, even at peak times. I’m made to feel like an inconvenience, a problem and I’ll tell you now – it makes me feel like utter crap. That’s probably the first time I’m sworn on my blog but it’s the only way to convey how it makes me feel.
How I feel when that treatment makes me late for work or late to collect my son from school. Yes, that’s right, I’m just like you. I have commitments and I’m trying to get somewhere just like everyone else. I’d like to get home after a day’s work, just like you. I’d like to get home without dealing with your attitude because it STINKS.
So thank-you so much if you fall into the first camp; you make my life as a disabled wheelchair user so much easier.
May I suggest, that if you sadly fall into the second, that you consider a career change. You’ve clearly misunderstood that your job isn’t about just driving a bus. It’s about transporting passengers – whether we’re disabled or not.