Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Better Bus Design for Wheelchair Users

A little while ago Liz Carr ran into problems on a bus because she wished to travel in her wheelchair facing the driver, as most normies do, but the bus driver insisted she travel facing towards the rear of the bus with the back of her chair against the cushioned pad.

Liz then received the following:

"With regards to Transport for London (TfL) policy concerning the positioning of wheelchairs on buses, I must report that the drivers are correct in insisting wheelchair users travel facing rearwards, with the back against the backrest and brakes applied. This is a legal requirement that needs to be enforced. Drivers should of course be polite and helpful in doing this and they are all being trained on this issue as part of our new ‘All Aboard!’ training this year.

It may be of use for you to arrange for one of our Travel Mentor team members to accompany you on a journey, and look to see if there is a better way for you to travel. Though ultimately, I’m afraid that legal reasons dictate that this is facing rearwards for the reasons explained. The travel mentoring team might be able to provide alternative options, such as our door-to-door Dial-a-Ride service, if this is felt to be appropriate."

I don’t mind which way I’m facing on a bus, although I draw the line at facing the ceiling, or floor. However I fully appreciate Liz’s desire to travel facing the driver; and I also agree, given the inherent dangers of travelling on public transport, that Liz should be given the choice of her own fate – that is to be mashed up backwards or smashed up forwards.

What pushes me over the edge and into a frenzy of uncontrollable red-mist can’t-recall-a-single-thing-afterwards rage is the fact they want us to sit the wrong way; and in doing so make it next to impossible to manoeuvre our chairs into the designate area.

Why do bus companies insist on placing an upright pole a third of the way along the wheelchair space? This pole makes it incredibly difficult for me to enter the bus facing forwards; attempt to turn 130° in a tight turning circle; reverse into the space, impeded by the pole; and back onto the cushion. All this usually on a moving bus.
The offending upright pole is on the left of the photograph - coloured green

One bright spark told me the pole was there to arrest my fall in the event of the bus breaking sharply and my brakes giving way – which they do anyway with some drivers at which time my chair behaves like a rodeo horse. So if you hear someone shouting YEEE HAW as an 88 nips sharpishly along Whitehall, that’ll be me.

Oh, by the way. If the bus breaks and I’m thrown from my bucking bronco, I’d rather hit the floor than a bloody pole which would probably drive my ribs into me vitals!

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