The simple answer is it shouldn’t
I have been thinking a lot about accessible travel (again) over the last week. In April I want to travel to France for a family wedding. I’m a full time wheelchair user, and I fly only once a year now. That’s because it is a horrible experience. And that’s if it runs smoothly.
If it goes wrong it can quickly become an absolutely horrific situation. I have had so many of these that I’m wondering whether to bother any more. It is so stressful.
Then I think how unfair it is that a whole section of society can potentially be excluded from travel, when, with some , it could be straightforward (as much as anything is straightforward when you’re disabled!). Why should it be so difficult?
I also think that the more we travel the more we make the point that the right exists for us as much as it does for other people.
It was so good to hear that the government plans to give £30 million to Heathrow Airport to improve accessibility for disabled people. But, I need to know exactly what it means and where the money is going to go.
And, from what I see, it’s not only flying, the problem exists across the whole spectrum of travel, trains, buses, taxis, boats, you name it, it’s a nightmare.
There is so much evidence out there of people’s experiences, none of it good. Yesterday I watched a video of a disabled man being taken off a train forward down a ramp. He was tipped out and landed on his head. It actually made me cry out. The feeling of being tipped forward in your wheelchair is really frightening.
People who are there to provide assistance must first have proper training, but also, must learn to speak, yes speak, to the disabled person to ask which way is the best way to go down a ramp, or a slope, or a step. That person will know best which is best for the particular situation. And if they do actually ask, to listen to the answer. I was once asked if I could stand. I said no. They stood me up anyway. I fell down! it was very painful.
I’ve been too scared in ten years of being in a wheelchair to travel by train. Watching that video did nothing to make me feel better! I use disabled taxis, sometimes the drivers are brilliant, kind and go out of their way to make sure I’m comfortable, others not so much!
I’ve found a solution to travelling to London now, I have two wonderful drivers who charge less than the train fare, take me from door to door, and make sure I’m ok. Then, when it’s time to travel home there they are. They also do the Heathrow trip. The insurance for them to drive our adapted car was worth every penny.
I feel as if I’m repeating myself. I’ve written before about my travel experiences and about the need for travel providers to take disabled people seriously and to try to do better.
The thing is, that accessibility issues don’t just refer to travel, but to other problems like non-accessible toilets, restaurants and other public places with no ramped access, even my doctors’ surgery is not nearly as accessible as I think it should be.
But until there is real change I think it bears repetition. Perhaps someone will finally take notice.