Not Another Wheelchair User!

Esi HardyAccessibility, Attitudes, Customers, Inclusion, Purple PoundLeave a Comment

Not Another Wheelchair User

The Situation

As a wheelchair user and a non-driver, I rely heavily on the train service to maintain relative independence.  I consciously chose to live in an area that was not only on a train line but central to stations that would connect me to a large part of the country.  Over the years, I have found that the service I receive on the platform and on the train has fallen into steep decline.

The Problem

Almost every time I go to board a train I am greeted with the negative attitudes of platform and guard staff who see me as an inconvenience and an annoyance rather than a passenger like everyone else. I require a ramp to board the train. Once on the train, I need to find a space in the designated wheelchair spaces where I can comfortably park myself for the duration of the journey. The general public are never a problem and I find (admittedly unlike some) my fellow passengers to be very helpful and accommodating; the attitudes held by passengers towards my disability are positive – what lets my journey down? The train staff.

If I have successfully debated my way onto the train after being reprimanded for not booking in advance, I am questioned as to why I have not printed my ticket.   Please don’t get me wrong, I have purchased a ticket but the printing machine itself presents a barrier so I store my ticket on the app.  This I explain to the guard but my explanation is rarely accepted as valid, presenting another opportunity for reprimanding.

I then reach my destination. At this point, my nerves are like razor blades as I wait to see if assistance is being provided for me to disembark. Will I be continuing my journey to an unknown destination? Or will I fall on the mercy of an unsuspecting passenger who is trying to wave down assistance on the platform?

The Solution 

  1. As a disability equality and inclusion advocate it would be amiss for me not mention customer experience and disability equality and inclusion training: not to be mistaken for disability awareness training which is something very different and therefore, it requires an article all of its own.
  2. A major audit of the sector’s policies, processes and attitudes towards disabled people.

I am sure you will hear a rebuttal along the lines of disabled people being required to book assistance to speed up the process, therefore making it easier for everyone.  However let me ask you this: putting aside general 9 to 5 jobs which, quite frankly are few and far between these days, how often do you know 24 hours in advance the exact time you will need to catch the train? Especially with so many delays and cancellations. And isn’t that the point of the train service to be agile and convenient for the general public?  But with a society prevalent to diversity, disabled people are the general public.

To end this article, let me just add

Not all train staff that I come across treat me with such disdain.  In fact, some of them are very welcoming and friendly but what is written above offers a general overview of my experience of using a service which is meant to be fair and equal for everyone.

To find out more about the barriers facing disabled people everyday and to discuss ways to mitigate them within your business, get in touch today

Esi (pronounced SE) set up Celebrating Disability in 2017; offering training, consulting and auditing to support businesses attract, engage and retain disabled people. Having the opportunity to support businesses to see the wealth of benefits that disabled people can bring to business, either as customers or employees is a privilege. She is passionate about disability equality and inclusion and loves nothing more than that “Ah ha” moment with a client when they see what disability equality and inclusion can do for them.

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