Since I started working on FixMyTransport, I’ve had a better understanding of the difficulties faced by disabled passengers across all forms of public transport – which is not a side-effect that I was expecting. I mean, as a frequent public transport passenger, and a reasonably aware person, shouldn’t I have already had a pretty good understanding of this failure in provision?
As I travel around my hometown, and further afield across the country, I often see passengers in wheelchairs or mobility scooters (and no doubt I’ve seen, but not noticed, many with hidden disabilities). But those are just the ones who are travelling. Judging by some of the reports we receive on FixMyTransport, many people with disabilities will never try, or have all but given up trying, to travel by public transport.
Of course, we don’t see people who aren’t there – and neither do the transport operators, so it’s just possible that neither we, nor the operators, fully understand the extent of the needs of this sector of society.
How FixMyTransport changes things
One of the things I really like about FixMyTransport is that it changes the game. It makes a hidden problem visible, by creating a permanent archive of the issues people complain about. It also provides a forum where we can add our support, or debate the best solutions – and put pressure on the operators to implement those solutions. It allows the people who can’t travel, or who can’t face trying, to explain just why that is.
Whether it’s buses that won’t take wheelchairs, platforms that can’t be reached without climbing stairs, or environments where people just don’t feel safe, the FixMyTransport reports from passengers with disabilities are doing a service for everyone – they are opening our eyes to the improvements that need to be made in society as a whole, if we are to consider our transport to be genuinely public.
The trouble with our transport systems – and how to take things further
There’s no doubt that it’s a tricky business, making public transport accessible. A rail operator recently explained to me that many of the difficulties are to do with the fact that our trains run on a Victorian infrastructure, great engineering that was built to last – but which was also built in a time when the rights of disabled people to travel just weren’t taken into consideration.
In these more enlightened times, the law makes sure that every new station built, and every new bus that rolls off the production line, is accessible for all. But it’s a long process, and of course, budgets dictate that less suitable vehicles won’t be retired until they fall apart, and station improvements can only be considered when there’s money in the pot.
You might have already asked your local operator for better provision and been given an apologetic, but negative response. In the normal way of things, you might give up at this point. But FixMyTransport gives people a way to come together and campaign at a higher level. You can find other people who feel the same way, or want to support the issue, and you can rally together to contact the bodies that can help you – be that your local councillor, MP, or passenger watchdog.
In most cases, operators want to help – but their hands are tied, by budgetary constraints, short franchises, inherited vehicles, rolling stock and real estate. That’s why FixMyTransport aims to give you tools to take your problems higher up, where policy changes can really make a difference.
Here are just a few FixMyTransport reports dealing with problems faced by passengers with disabilities.
- Boarding the bus in Ipswich
- Trouble with a mobility scooters on the train at Sheffield
- Wheelchairs on London buses
- No lift at Nailsea station adds an hour to the journey
If any of those issues has given you food for thought, why not click the ‘support’ button (which will put your name to the passenger’s campaign), add to the debate, and maybe even suggest a solution?
Today, December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a United Nations initiative. This year the theme is “removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.
Image by Oriol Segarra (CC)