Monday, 20 July 2015

London's Inaccessible Public Transport System

Some years ago the late Simon Hoggart wondered, in his Guardian column, why people were complaining about disability access on the London Underground when he saw so few wheelchair users actually using the system. Of course Simon was lambasted for his gaff.

The image below shows just how poor a service wheelchair users are offered by the London Underground service. Accessibility ranges from no access on the Waterloo & City Line to 3 out of 5 stations usable on the Jubilee Line.  

With such a pitiful underground system available to wheelchair users it is just as well we have an excellent bus service to fall back on. Except, this isn't always the case.

While London buses are undoubtedly more accessible that they've ever been, there are still major issues with the system. The endless feud between buggies and wheelchairs continues; and of course the judgement made that states parents don't need to vacate the 'designated' wheelchair space on a bus in favour of a wheelchair user doesn't help.

Yet the buggy is not the biggest problem faced by wheelchair users in Central or Inner London. As a wheelchair user I would not attempt to board a bus say in Brixton or the Elephant and Castle during rush hours; Oxford Street's another place I'd avoid.

As a wheelie trying to board a bus at a busy stop is problematic, especially if you're alone. In the first instance you must rely on the kindness of other travellers to allow you to indicate to the driver you wish to board. Sometimes a kind stranger will inform the driver for you; at other times it's the luck of the draw.

Even when the ramp is deployed and you're on the bus, trying to get to the designated wheelchair space can be very difficult. You'd be surprised just how many people can occupy such a small space; and attempting to displace them and manoeuvre the chair through a throng of bodies is no fun.

Passengers seem to think that by moving an inch or two they have performed their civic duty for the month. Good grace is furthest from people's minds as their routine of inching along the bus a bit to accommodate another passenger is massively compromised by a git in a wheelchair expecting them to actually get out of the fucking way!

Thus, until other bus users learn to understand the needs of wheelchair users I can't see any solution to the problem of wheelchair users accessing buses in busy traffic locations.

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