Why is disabled public transport so awful?

"Why is it so hard for them to get from A to B?"

Amy Patterson

Amy Patterson, 21, is a part-time volunteer who enjoys writing and music. She is going back to college in September and hopes to become a journalist in the future.

Imagine being my friend for one moment. She’s a wheelchair user and travelling with her is a shocking experience. Here’s just one example of a journey in London. At Victoria Station, we struggle to find a lift down to the trains. The lift is not clearly sign-posted and it’s further away than the stairs. When we make it there we realise it’s out of order. We finally find a working lift and get down to the platform. While everyone is rushing by, she’s not able to get on a train without the aid of others. What would it be like in rush-hour? Being alone in this predicament is like being trapped. What if you went through this every day as you commuted? My friend has no option than to not use public transport anymore.

I find it so frustrating when I see a disabled person struggle due to badly planned disabled access at train stations or on buses. Public transport is difficult at the best of times, but for those who have to rely on it because they can’t drive, the experience can be a nightmare.

For example, bus drivers will take off before a disabled user has parked their chair correctly, something that doesn’t seem to happen for bus users with kids who are allowed to get sat down before the bus moves. Often on buses there is only space for one wheelchair-user, but the space is often used for pushchairs so half the time there is no room. The seats closest to the door of the bus are not suitable for those with disabilities as they are too high. In some areas bus companies use a raised kerb which meets with the pavement so wheelchair users can roll on and off, but drivers often seem to ignore this and just stop anywhere.

And what about if you were planning a last minute trip? It wouldn’t work with some train companies. On the National Rail website they suggest you give a minimum of 24 hours notice if you need ‘assistance’ (merely a ramp between the train and the platform.) You’d think lifts and ramps wouldn’t be a hassle, yet it’s the complete opposite.

On some trains, disabled users can only ride in one part of the coach. Why does it have to be near the toilet? It’s not the most pleasant of journeys. I wonder why the train can’t be accessible in every carriage. Adaptations could definitely be put in place with the amount I know I spend on travel! This would give disabled people a chance not to be penalised for needing assistance. There should not be a difference in the first place. Why are we singling out the disabled like they are a hassle? There is no consideration of others when every other individual is in a rush. Sometimes I think its laziness.

So how come changes haven’t happened yet? Is it because people are too selfish to put themselves in a disabled user’s place or is it simply ignorance? Either way, disabled people like my friend should not have to justify themselves to get help and support whilst travelling. Clearer signs are needed where lifts and wheelchair access are. Bus drivers should use the raised curb, rather than just stop the bus wherever it suits them. More thought is needed to allow disabled people to travel independently and with dignity. Surely if you were disabled, you would want the same?


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Updated on 29-Sep-2015