The Problems with Public Transport.
Personally, I try and avoid public transport if I can help it. You never know what you are going to get from one minute to the next. At least—you don’t if you live in the United Kingdom.
So far, I have travelled to Amsterdam and New York. I used their Public Transport without any issue. Both countries transport system are easy to use and they respect people who are actually disabled. It’s a shocker!
However, you only have to look at the news to know it is a completely different situation in this country. We are encouraged to NOT support the disabled. It’s an ongoing issue and one I will come back to at a later date.
So what are the problems with Public Transport?
Priority Seating and Balance
When I went to New York and Amsterdam, I used their transport happily. The priority seats were always empty. Even if the normal seats had gone, people stood, leaving the priority empty and you knew which was which because of the colour of the seat.
Both countries I was able to get on the train, the tram or the subway without any issue. I was contented and happy that I could get around. Then I came back to the UK and avoided it like the plague again.
If you are disabled, you know what I am talking about but if you are not, imagine this scenario. You’re disabled and the condition affects your legs. You can’t balance. You trip over your own feet as you step onto the bus and the driver starts to move before you pay. You struggle to stand.
Can’t imagine it?
Ok then, you’ve broken your leg. You’re on two crutches and you are waiting in line for a bus. You hobble onto the bus, crutches in hand and you scan the bus but there are no seats. The priority seats are all taken!
The bus begins to move, you scramble for your wallet to pay but you can barely stand and you still haven’t found a seat. You dump the money into the pay-box and take your ticket.
You hold both crutches in one hand and latch on to the pole. But because your leg is broken and levitated, you are struggling to balance. You’re sliding left and right. You may occasionally hit your head on the pole but no one offers you a seat.
Instead, they just stare at you and then glance back down onto the phone.
As you pass from stop to stop, people barge into you. They don’t apologise, they just grab the handrail or go upstairs. Finally, it’s your stop and you hobble off.
Bad experience, right? You’d have thought someone would have had the common decency to offer you a seat. They could see your crutches and your broken leg.
Only. I’m not in a cast. I don’t walk in crutches. But it is clear that my balance is unsteady.
This is why I avoid public transport in the UK. This is what I get every time I have tried to use the bus or the tube station. Sometimes on a train, if I could not reserve a seat!
I never travel alone. Honestly, there have been times when I have been on the Tube on those few occasions I visit London. People see I am struggling to stand. See that my dad has to hold me close and tight so that I don’t fall. Yet they sit in those seats, not offering one.
I mean, I could ask for one but you never know how people are going to treat you once they learn you are disabled. It’s a scary task to actually say to someone: “excuse me, but do you mind if I have your seat?”
And it’s not just the Tube station, the same happens on trams, trains, buses. You name it, it happens.
I was at the airport once. Sat in the priority seat waiting area and got challenged because I did not hold a crutch or a walking stick. I don’t mind being challenged but there is a way of going about it and this guy did it the wrong way.
We’ve all also have heard about the wheelchair spaces on the bus where people have been refused a space because a pushchair—that can usually be folded up—is taking a space. Although the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the disabled, there was that one issue where another wheelchair user, Kirsty Shepard, was refused a spot.
I am unsure whether there are still the odd one or two instances where the person in a wheelchair is refused a spot on a bus. But there have been instances on other transport and recently too. The Comedian, Tanyalee Davis was recently humiliated on a train.
Davis was asked to move out of a provided wheelchair and accessibility spot to make way for a woman and her pushchair. The article was published on Tuesday, so not that long ago.
Trains, Trams and Tubes
The issue isn’t just about the priority seats either. Each transport has it’s own disadvantages when you have a disability. Especially if one of those transports involve some form of a railway system.
Passengers in wheelchairs are frequently anxious about using this form of transport because assistance, regardless of whether they are prebooked or not, is rarely available. This can lead to the individual missing their train or even being stranded on the train until someone gets them off, maybe at a station that was not their stop.
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’. Scope, 2018
Rip-off Britain showed one man using his footplate as a barrier between the door and the train so he could get off at his stop. The train driver tried to shut the door several times before realising there is a problem (aired 27/06/2018).
It also stated that many trains now only operate with only the driver on shift. This makes it even harder for disabled people to get off if the assistance does not arrive.
Recently, Govia Thameslink Railway has been accused of discriminating by allegedly asking its staff that they should not help disabled passengers on a train if this is going to cause a delay. However, they have since reworded the policy, stating it could have been better expressed and that it offers assistance to all users, regardless of the delay.
I would like to applaud Gloria Hunniford for her comment when a railway spokesperson, Robert Nisbet stated they were working with a Victorian infrastructure:
That’s a great excuse. We’re now in the 21st century. – Gloria Hunniford, Rip-off Britain, 27/06/2018
However, Nisbet assures us that a half-billion investment is underway to make rail-travel step-free so wheelchair users don’t have to rely on assistance. Many companies offer a taxi to the nearest accessible station. But Taxi’s can be an issue on their own.
A friend of mine, Sophie, constantly struggles with taxis. She uses a wheelchair and quite often, she has noticed that the taxi driver will start the tariff before she is actually in the car. One time, this happened while I was in the taxi with her and I politely asked him to reset it before we began our journey. To be fair to the driver, he did.
On occasions when I haven’t been with Sophie on a journey, she has told me of instances where the driver will leave the tariff running as she is exiting the vehicle and the driver seems to unfold and refold the ramp slowly.
She has also been refused access to some taxis in the past—all with their own excuse. You can read more on Sophie‘s blog. But Sophie isn’t alone with these taxi refusals.
An article on the BBC shows that a Disability Wales Campain Group claims the same thing. A student at Stroke-on-Trent won a case at a trial after she was refused a taxi due to the driver believing her chair will topple over and mistakenly believing her to be drunk due to “slurred” speech. And BBC has an article about a Birmingham Taxi Driver who loses his licence after refusing to take someone with a guide dog.
These are just some stories in the press, but there are many more, both in the news and ones unheard.
Possible solutions and ones already implemented
The priority seats one is not such an easy solution to fix so if anyone has any ideas, please put it in the comments.
As we have already seen, the supreme court has ruled that disabled people should have priority in disabled seats and parents with prams can be asked and be expected to move off the bus. However, it will be very hard to police.
The law has already started changing for taxi drivers, with a £1000 fine if they refuse a disabled person on any grounds that are not medical or deemed reasonable. They are also not allowed to charge more for taking anyone with a disability to their destination. Make sure they’re aware you know the law if it looks as if you’re going to have problems.
I like the idea of the step-free railway and hope to see that become a standard thing pretty soon in the future. It cannot come quickly enough.
Robert Nisbet mentioned a Passenger Assist scheme on Rip-Off Britain. The Scope representative says 4/5 disabled passengers have never heard of it. So the word needs to be spread. We as a community can do just that. Let people know they can have a conversation with the Passenger Assist Scheme.
Above all else, we need to change how we as a society see the disabled. Why does this happen in the UK but not in places like the Netherlands and New York?
What issues have you had or witnessed with public transport? Feel free to say in comments.