We Really Must Talk About Disabled Travel And Access

So many regular readers of this site will be well aware of the changing fortunes of my health in the past few years. One aspect of life of life that has become alarmingly worse is that of travel.

Travel isn’t easy when you are disabled, but it gets worse. Statements such as “We welcome disabled people on all our services and our staff will be delighted to help” are all a load of rubbish if staff on train services are happy to help I have yet to meet a member of staff of a train company that is happy to help.

I really must also take take aim at Transport for London here. I know there are other examples such as Virgin Trains here. You see TFL used to make a point of equal opportunities for job applicants down to using an “equal opportunities” form as part of the decision process. Last time I was shown one, it was a 4 page document and one I felt was quite intrusive. Rumour, legend and folklore has it that if you did not put down that you were a disabled, Jewish, lesbian, non white trans sexual catholic that you would not get an interview!

You cannot in reality employ disabled people if they cannot get to work!

This is where it really unravels for TFL. You see I was planning a trip to London for some meetings and some beers with friends earlier. What an utter fiasco! Now I know London reasonably well and if I am really stuck I know that my mate Derek the Cabbie will come to my aid in short order. However I want to try and make less fuss and Black taxi’s are expensive.

So we look to public transport. I needed to find out if some stations had step free access. In the end I resorting to asking some friends and associates on Facebook! You see, TFL do not make easy or intuitive to find the information on their website. One of my good friends found this guide on my behalf. Hardly an easy to use document and next to useless if plans change in a hurry. So using the Tube becomes a nightmare. I later found an accessible travel option on the TFL website, again another nightmare. London Transport can be unreliable at the best of times as it is a highly complex network that lends itself to complex disruption when the slightest thing goes wrong!

This is where things goes go very wrong. The accessible journey option overtly relies on the famous red London Bus. There are loads of video’s on YouTube if you wish to look about the problems of disabled travel on London Buses. You see the low adjustable floors of these buses are good but if the buses are too busy or the spaces for wheelchairs are taken up by even so much as a counterfeit Gucci handbag you are in trouble! You might have to wit for three buses in order to use one! One route I planned used 6 different buses!

This then makes it impossible to plan meetings or appointments and woe betide you if you are disabled and want plan more than one meeting in a one day visit to London. All of this makes it all the more impossible.

I ended up changing my plans to a one day meeting at a hotel on the outskirts of London with those who want to meet me having to travel to that hotel.

It amazes me though how many stations do not have proper step free access. I am aware that some of these stations are rater old but with excellent advances in technology and civil engineering, there must surely be a way to increase step free access across the network?

Surely too, TFL can up the ante and provide easy to use sources of information for the disabled traveller instead of hard to locate and cludgy options?