Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Promising for once…

I’m not actually sure when I signed up but I’m on the Transport for London database so get regular e-mail updates about everything to do with TfL from tube strikes to road closures. Most of the messages are pretty irrelevant to my life but seems as I travel into London quite often (mostly for the football), I thought there might be some important information occasionally so I shouldn’t unsubscribe. I’m glad I didn’t because the other week, I was invited to attend ‘Access All Areas’ at the London Excel Conference Centre where I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and heard.

The exhibition took place on Thursday and gave an opportunity for those at Tfl to communicate with disabled transport users and answer any queries. I know most events like this are normally put on just to make it seem that the organization listen to the people and are taking on board all the feedback but in reality, do not care one bit. ‘Access All Areas’ felt different though and I left the Excel believing that the future is bright when it comes to accessibility on public transport.

You’ve all read about my previous issues on transport (if not where have you been?) and for that reason I steer clear of public transport, particularly in London. I have used a taxi recently but I did not have the confidence to use other modes to get about. I was therefore going to the conference expecting arguments but I was satisfied with what they said and have a new found confidence.. Back in 2012 was the last time I used both the Tube and a bus because there were some problems. Not major but still annoying and put me off.

The London Underground was first built over 150 years ago so obviously access for wheelchair users was not considered at all. Therefore, complaining to TfL that they should completely change the whole system to accommodate disabled passengers is unreasonable and quite frankly ludicrous. That being said, reasonable adjustments can be made so that, for example, other passengers do not have to help my carer lift me on board. I was relieved to find out that most of the stations accessible from the street now have members of staff on hand to assist with ramps. Some stations such as Leicester Square are completely inaccessible but like I said, old Victorian architecture cannot be changed overnight.

Buses have also never been the easiest to get on. I used them all the time when I was at University (for that short stint) and had a few difficulties. The ramp wasn’t that wide so my electric wheelchair was a tight squeeze. One size certainly does not fit all. On board, some wheelchair spaces are quite small so it can prove difficult to turn. Getting off was also sometimes a problem as the ramp would be set down in line with a post. Impractical or what? However, they had a few buses to try out at the show and they definitely have improved over the past two years.

From speaking to various people and reading the leaflets, it became clear to me that the Paralympics is the main reason why TfL suddenly care about disabled people and want to improve access on public transport. I’m glad that finally the legacy of those games is becoming visible for all disabled people, not just those involved in sport. It’s not just what they have done since 2012, TfL are also planning ahead and hope for the situation when it comes to access to get better every year.

Bye for now! 

Thanks Aaron for sharing this with me...

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