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Category archive for: Public Transport

Open Letter to All Bus Drivers – from a Wheelchair User Passenger

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Education, Equality & Diversity, Personal, and Public Transport

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.

Challenges of a Disabled Mum: A to B and beyond

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Motherhood, Personal, and Public Transport

Last week’s blog talked about the challenges I’ve faced getting my little boy from A to B as a disabled mum.  With some creative thinking, we’ve managed to get out and about locally, visiting friends and family.  However, going any further has presented bigger challenges which aren’t so easily resolved.

Since the age of 13, I’ve been regularly going over to Ireland by myself to visit family and friends. I’ll never forget that first time, when Mum entrusted me into the care of the airport staff, with my uncle waiting to meet me in the Arrivals Hall of Dublin Airport. I felt so grown up, travelling all by myself! It’s something I began taking for granted, as airports are obliged to provide support for disabled travellers.

That was until Jack arrived.  As he grew bigger and Dean returned to contracting, I thought I’d be able to pop home for long weekends and half-term breaks, once Jack started at school. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be as I discovered that the airlines didn’t allow disabled travellers to travel with minors.  Well, technically I could book the tickets and not declare that I need support until arrival at the airport but even for me, pushing boundaries as I do, I’d fear I’d be on very dodgy ground!

So the first time this came up, we decided Dean would fly over with us and then return home for work.  Two weeks later, darling hubby drove back over to Ireland to bring Jack and I home. On other occasions, we’ve managed to work things so that Jack and I travel over with Dean and then return with my parents or sister.  As you can imagine, this takes planning and I find myself having to fit into other people’s plans, rather than making my own.  It has obviously been more expensive and on occasions, I’ve had to miss family events because Dean is working and there’s nobody to travel with.

Whilst in some respects, I accept these limitations as a disabled mum, it is frustrating that it has kerbed my independence! I know that, God forbid, in the case of emergency, Jack and I would need assistance but on the other hand, I don’t think the airlines, like much of society, have considered that yes, disabled people do have children!!  What if I was a single parent wanting to take my child away on holiday? Would I have to wait until Jack was 11 to do what the majority of parents take for granted? 

Whilst it’s not a huge problem, it’s something I didn’t think of when I was considering all the challenges I would face as a disabled parent and once again, we’ve had to think in a different way to other parents. 

I wonder whether airlines and businesses as a whole, could consider ways that they can support people like me, thus raising awareness that disabled people are parents too?  Maybe offering a £20 chaperone service which would be cheaper and easier than the arrangements we currently have to make, would be a start!

Please offer me a seat – improving travel for disabled people?

Posted in Accessibility, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

 

Whilst browsing through my twitter account yesterday, I became aware of a new scheme which Transport for London are trialling, which encourages passengers to give up their seat for someone who needs it more, particularly disabled passengers.  Participating passengers will have a card and wear a badge, saying “Please offer me a seat.”

As a disabled wheelchair user who regularly uses public transport, albeit not in London much, I have very mixed feelings about this.  Although I am fortunate enough to at least always have my own seat, (thankfully!)  I am often left very frustrated by my fellow passengers attitudes, who fail to consider my needs by pushing on to trains or buses in front of me and using the designated wheelchair space as a dumping ground for their luggage. (Rather than taking the time to put it in the designated space for luggage)  It is much easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair before everyone else gets on but few people ever consider this.

So on the one hand, I think Transport for London should be generously applauded for taking the initiative to improve things for disabled people; they have identified this as a significant problem and are taking proactive steps to improve the experience for disabled passengers, particularly those who may not feel confident in speaking up to tell people what they need.

But on the other hand, I feel sad and frustrated that it’s considered that such schemes are needed. If people were more considerate and thoughtful, we would all have a much more positive experience of public transport, including disabled people.  If we all moved as far as possible, leaving the front seats available for those who need them, as is the intention, there would be less need for people to move – and be torn away from their Smart Phones! 🙂

Common sense also plays a big part.  We all need to be aware of those around us and be prepared to assist those who may need a seat or even assistance with luggage etc.

I think many disabled people may also feel self-conscious about wearing a badge which advertises the fact that they have a disability. Others may feel cheeky about asking for a seat, particularly if their disability isn’t immediately obvious. And although I understand that the scheme relies upon goodwill, unfortunately this isn’t always forthcoming and some disabled people may fear confrontation from those who question their greater need for a seat.

Despite my reservations, I hope the scheme is successful and at the very least, encourages people to be a little more considerate of the needs of their fellow passengers.