Thursday, 13 November 2014

We were invited to a very close friend of mines wedding over the weekend. It was in Aylesbury. So the day before my wife and I travelled to High Wycombe -the nearest Premier Inn. (Who I must say are pretty good with wheelchair user guests especially in the one near the Empire in London (Shepherds Bush). -this wasn't a paid for advertisement) It was to be a weekend plagued with transport problems.

When we reached Waterloo things started to go wrong. The rail assistance guy was useless and felt he had to repeatedly say "You don't pay extra for rail assistance." Like that somehow made up for his inability to problem solve. I didn't bother to point out that in actuality rail assistance is subsidised by the cost of rail tickets. His idea of travel assistance was to lead us to Waterloo Tube Station where the guy at the entrance informed us that the destination or the surrounding stops had no step free access. He said "right then ok well make your own way." Or something. Luckily then someone from the underground came to offer more help. -eg took us to a bus stop and said wait for 489 or something.

This inconvenience wasn't much of a problem. The problem was I'd bought the tickets for the underground and when I booked the assistance I was told "If the underground is not accessible we'll arrange a taxi for you." Next time I travel to marylebone I won't buy underground tickets.

Artists impression.

So yeah we got to High Wycombe and the assistance was great there. They called a taxi for us and one of them waited with us. He was Ryan and he was really friendly and chatted with us while we waited. He paid for the taxi out of his own money which was pretty decent.

The next day I was travelling to the ceremony in Aylesbury. I was going alone and meeting up with my wife at the reception. Because of her pain condition. Bus 300 took  ~58mins to reach Aylesbury and I could, or so I thought, board at Morrisons. So I left the hotel just after 10am. I was supposed to be early to meet my Dad and Sister in the pub opposite.

I'm at the stop and the bus pulls in the doors pop open. "I'm taking a buggy [pram] there's no space." I reply "But wheelchairs have preference." Because that's the law of the land. "No you don't." Snarks the bus driver. "Take the train." So I ask. "What's your full name and employer?" Then the doors shut and he drove off.

These aren't the actual words. But that's how it seemed.
So I went to take the train. It wasn't a direct train and it only came every hour. So I was late. I arrived as they left! Oh and I was cold and wet because as soon as the bus driver refused to let me on it started to rain. Which was completely the bus company's fault!

Ok so why should the pram move? Because it's possible. You fold up the pram and hold the baby on your lap.

"But my pram doesn't fold." Well don't get on the bus till you have one that does, or relinquish the space voluntarily.

But what if the bus already had a wheelchair user on, you would still be upset?
"There are around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, roughly 2 per cent of UK population"
 NHS purchasing and supply agency 2000
"Less than 8 per cent of disabled people use wheelchairs."
 Papworth Trust disability facts and figures 2010
(<8% of ~20% so < 2%)

It's not really likely. It has happened a couple times but it doesn't cause you to think about the chances the next bus is taking a pram and the lacking disability training. Which is why I went to take the train. I'd have waited for the next bus if that was the case.

So yeah people are selfish I just read a statistic that 38% of people believe disabled people are a burden on society. Interestingly roughly 38% of people are out of work. I'm not saying they are the same people but I am saying that when I'm out and need help with a door or something it's usually the smartly dressed professionals who offer help not the tracksuit and legging clad stereotypical benefit claimants.

28% believe there is ill feeling around perceived extra support. I've been there needing personal care and help taking a shower. Extra support is no picnic. I think genuinely disabled people if they had a choice would choose not to need support.

27% believe disabled people are treated differently because there is a lack of knowledge around disability. I'm not sure what that even means. People should be treated differently. Like rail assistance don't need to follow everyone around laying a ramp over the gap. There should be better education in schools for sure. 65% of people admit avoiding disabled people because they don't realise we are all people! That statistic is pretty depressing.

The bold% are from BT - 'Ready, Willing and Disabled Event 2011

Society isn't that good to wheelchair users. We have our ramps and people to lay ramps but most people think that's enough. Life is often significantly shorter, accomplishments significantly harder to achieve, often quality of life is substantially lower, and independence is discussed with people who are either under qualified or grossly incompetent. Or if you do find you have a social worker who understands and represents your best interests... They lose their job -thanks Austerity cuts!

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