One in four disabled people has been stopped from using public transport by other people’s attitudes in the last year, and 1 in 5 people in the United Kingdom are disabled. That’s 14 million people that face discrimination and negative attitudes every single day.
Disabled people are discriminated against in every way imaginable, but I’m sure those disabled people would trade their health for someone who’s healthy.
Even locating restrooms that are clean and are accessible to get into isn’t easy, but on the continent in some countries disabled people are given priority when queuing, such as in shops et cetera, but there’s no statutory duty on shops to implement this, and it’s a disgrace the United Kingdom doesn’t treat its disabled people with the same respect and humanity.
For a disabled person to get a powered chair, it costs between £3,000 plus but there’s a lot of people who are not disabled that think that disabled people get these things for free, well they don’t, they have to pay for this kind of thing themselves.
People that are not disabled appear to assume and judge those that are, and even bus drivers sometimes drive past the bus stop as if the disabled person is the only one at the stop, and it’s tragic that we still live in a world with a lot of judgement.
But anyone who has a disability and has aids and adaptations should have to rationalise or justify anything to anyone. The problem is, most able-bodied people are blissfully oblivious of the restrictions that face disabled people every day.
It’s only when it’s brought home and a loved one is touched by this that people really notice exactly how hard it is to get out and about every day, and there are many stores and companies that have no or extremely bad disabled access.
It’s time the overall public knew what it’s like to have a disability of any kind, and it’s also high time the government knew what it was like. After all, we’re still human beings and deserve to be treated with respect and consideration.
Disabilities are not always understood by the able-bodied, and new laws on disabilities of any kind should be taught in school and by police forces because this kind of conduct towards the disabled is a form of bullying, and some of our disabled have attempted suicide because the brutality has become too much.
The underground is the greatest struggle and there aren’t enough lifts or any lifts in the stations. Disabled people are really limited from going far from home because they need to have somebody with them, and some are pretty restricted on mobility scooters because of the range of the batteries.
We seem to have wi-fi on trains now, buses, cafes and restaurants and hotspots in various locations and powerpoints to plug our phones into in case we run out of battery, but there’s nowhere that a disabled person can go to get their battery charged up so that they can travel a distance without running out of power and breaking down, or the dread of getting stuck on the underground with all the terrorist attacks and false alarms, which for them is the worst psychological travel.
And all of this is getting worse because the government and the media are portraying the disabled as scroungers and cheats and the United Kingdom has now become a hostile environment.
As a wheelchair user, I experience discrimination at times, I frequently get asked if I want a race, or let me sit on your scooter I could do with a rest, and people look at me like I’m some alien and I have no right to be there.
The problem is, able-bodied people don’t realise that they could end up being disabled one day, and there are some pretty narrow-minded people out there, and it really doesn’t give them the liberty to say these things, and sometimes I really can’t fathom why people are so wicked, they have no idea what disabled people go through in their lives every day, and it seems that it’s open season for disabled people to be discriminated against, and there is no one out there to defend us!
Able-bodied people have no idea how fortunate they are to not have to live with a disability, and nobody should be punished due to having a disability.
There was a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people, and some people and organisations like employers, shops, local authorities and schools had to take certain measures to eliminate the obstacles disabled people faced because of their disability.
This was to ensure that they received the same services as able-bodied people, and the Equality Act 2010 called this the Duty to make reasonable adjustments.
The Equality Act 2010 says changes or adjustments should be made to ensure a disabled person can access the following things:
Goods and services like shops, banks, cinemas, hospitals, council offices, Leisure Centres
Associations and private clubs like the Scouts and Guides, private golf clubs and working men clubs.
Here are examples of physical features which it might be possible to change:
steps and stairs
passageways and paths
entrances and exits
internal and external doors
lighting and ventilation
the size of the premises.
The kind of adjustments which could be made includes removing, changing or providing a way of avoiding the physical feature, where it’s reasonable to do so.
Here are examples of reasonable adjustments:
providing ramps and stairway lifts
making doorways wider
installing automatic doors
providing more lighting and clearer signs.
But what happens if someone doesn’t cooperate with the duty to make reasonable adjustments?
If someone doesn’t cooperate with their duty to make reasonable adjustments, the Equality Act says it’s unlawful discrimination, and you can ask the person or organisation to make the necessary modifications, and if they refuse, you can make a discrimination claim under the Equality Act.
There have been numerous changes since the Equality Act was brought in, but countless smaller shops don’t appear to abide by this ruling, particularly in London. I travel to London with my son at least once or twice a year and sometimes find it really difficult to access shops that I’d like to go into because there are no ramps or level access into the shops, or the shops are not wide enough to get into.
The London Underground has put in lifts for disabled people in wheelchairs but they are pretty far and few between which makes it really difficult for wheelchair users to travel, and often my son has to walk to where we want to go or get on a bus which is really time-consuming.
We’re supposed to live in a modern age of travel, but not so modern if disabled people can’t access things, and able-bodied people certainly have no idea about the difficulties faced by wheelchair users, and in our supposedly tolerant, modern society, a wheelchair user should be able to get about and do some pretty ordinary everyday activities without too many problems.
The first obstacle is the terrain with all its holes, cracks and gaps in the pavement, and if you’re a wheelchair user, those imperfections the local council hasn’t quite got round to dealing with can end up with a wheelchair user being hurled onto the floor at any moment, or leave you with one wheel stuck off the ground, rendering any movement impossible.
That’s before you decide to venture into a shop, and after 10 minutes of pushing and pulling, a coffee might be just the thing, this should be a breeze because the doors are extra wide, but then you have to navigate the doors that are extra heavy and you can’t navigate them from a wheelchair, so you have to wait for some kind person to open it for you.
But mostly you’re rendered invisible when your sitting in a wheelchair, and that gathering of people that do seem to notice the fact that you’re in a wheelchair want to prove they’ve seen you by being as insensitive as they possibly can.
So, you’re struggling to propel yourself up a gentle slope and the pavement has been obstructed by a bag of rubbish. Does the person coming the other way acknowledge that there’s only room for one of you to get through, no of course not, they merely put their head down, speed up and make you wait.
And then there’s the person in the post office who watches while you haggle your way through the cramped aisle, he could move aside and save you having to go all the way around the counter, but that might involve that person taking a few steps forward, so instead they turn their back on you and carry on chatting to there friend.
Transport is at the heart of how we live our lives. It helps us get to work, stay in touch with friends and family, contribute to society and access important services like healthcare and education, and while many people take this for granted, this is not the reality for everyone.
If you’re disabled, you might face difficulties, as transport and recreation continue to plague wheelchairs with poor treatment, and where many are harried and humiliated.
We’re not just disabled by our bodies but by the way society is organised, and it’s not the use of a wheelchair that makes disabled life hard, it’s the reality that not all buildings have ramps.
Back in the 1980s and early 90s, disabled campaigners used direct action and lobbying to protest for civil rights, from accessible transport to entertainment venues, and anyone who remembers images of wheelchair users chaining themselves to buses in London as police moved in to kettle them, knows equal rights under the law have been hard won.
Decades later we seem to be edging towards a tipping point again.
The Equality Act was the product of the campaigning in the 90s, demanding that buildings make reasonable adjustments and to give disabled access, but it’s generally unenforced, and Britain’s infrastructure, from the train network to public toilets can be equally inaccessible.
But there are too many women that are being forced to have needless surgery due to the scarcity of toilet provision, and both male and female routinely use adult nappies on a long journey, despite not being incontinent because stations don’t have the amenities, but the other option is to never travel.
The kind of society, that we should aspire to be, would take the needs of all of its members, including the disabled, into account at every stage.
In the more extreme versions, one could picture the USA asserting these requirements in the method of legal action. In Europe, a powerful adjustment to inclusiveness and responsibility is one of the defining traits of the EU, and Britain tends to fall between these two stools.
Narrow commercial interest and casual marginalisation of anyone outside the criteria is pretty much par for the course in England, more in the south-east than in the north and west, less so in Scotland and Wales, and leaving the EU is possible to have a adverse impact on how Britain provides for the disabled and the disadvantaged.
Maybe in ways that will differ negatively even with the “devil take the hindmost” practises so prevalent in the USA. Sadly, the chasm between who we are now, and who we would like to be, is likely to increase with further time in the office of this Conservative government and with the onset of Brexit. It’s a sad prospect.
Let’s remember that we all become disabled. Disability hits us all as we age, and the more accessible the environment becomes serves us all, helps support the quality of our lives and our independence, and to call a person with a disability as a disabled person acknowledges it is the environment not the level of impairment that is the problem, and a suitable toilet in every rail station would be great for everyone.
Locating a toilet for the able-bodied is difficult enough, it’s hellish for wheelchair users. Imagine wanting to go and having to suffer the agony and pain of having to wait for a major station. It is a basic human necessity to go to the toilet, and a public place like a train station should not be able to be open and operate without a functioning toilet available to all passengers.
The problem is even though these laws are made for disabled people they are so readily disregarded, so what hope is there for bigger things that also need to be implemented without issue or objection? And if it’s unlawful to discriminate against for whatever reason, then why are breaches not dealt with as a grave concern, and not something that’s simply disregarded?
For any disabled person that can’t leave the home other than medical appointments, hospitals are frequently the worst offenders for accessibility. Large doors that are difficult to open if you’re in a wheelchair, doorways that are too small to get a chair through, waiting areas that don’t have space for more than one wheelchair, or often not even enough for one.
Corridors that are small and twisty, and lifts in areas miles out of the way of where you might want to get to, and doors are frequently not automatic, and even when they are, they’re usually broken and don’t work.
As for disabled parking, it’s a farce. The outpatient’s entrance which is for disabled parking is difficult to park because it’s also the drop-off and pick up point for the taxis and patient transport ambulances, which not only park in the spaces but also obstruct whatever fortunate person succeeded in getting a place by parking behind them.
Then the other disabled assigned parking spaces have a couple of mobile builders offices deposited on it while building work is going on, and another disabled car park was built on.
Other hospitals might have a car park with an entire level dedicated to disabled parking spaces, which is a fabulous concept, but if there are no places available, which occurs frequently, you’re forced to park on another level, but the lift is on the disabled level, and if you can’t park there, the only access to the lift from the other levels is upstairs or up the actual ramp the cars use, with not only no pavement, but up a slope so perpendicular even an electric scooter can’t accomplish it safely and it’s a joke.
And then there are the pavements with lowered kerbs that aren’t really, a kerb is not dropped if it’s still 2 inches off road level and dropped kerbs to exit a pavement that isn’t equalled by another one to join the pavement, so you’re left stranded in the road frantically seeking to discover a way to get back on the pavement and out of the traffic.
Dropped kerbs are okay, but now they’ve been parked over by delivery drivers or other vehicles, and jagged asphalt surfaces that are a danger to people with mobility problems.
A hospital campus that’s big enough to require its own bus service to get people around it, but the buses don’t drop to the curbstone, needing the driver to get out and manually set the ramp every time a wheelchair user needs to use the bus, and it’s only got one wheelchair area anyhow, which is frequently used by parents with buggies, which isn’t a problem, but you would imagine that a hospital, of all places, and one which is still being developed, would have excellent access and amenities for disabled people.
Many hospitals now have introduced parking charges for disabled people, and this isn’t right because disabled people are much more inclined to need to attend the hospital more often than able-bodied people, and are more inclined to be living in relative hardship or be unemployed, and squeezing parking fees out of them as well seems a little harsh.
Disabled people should be given help and support in every way imaginable, life is hard enough for them without our government neglecting their needs, but it’s not only wheelchair users, what about ambulances that are called to train stations, particularly the underground stations where they have to fight to get through barriers and stairs before getting to the patient who could be dying.
The government’s plan entails making up to £300 million available to extend its plans to make railway stations more accessible, but the Freedom of Information requests by the news site Disability News Service show the Conservatives reduced spending on the project over the last five years from £81.1 million in 2013‑14 to only £14.6 million last year.
Charity begins at home, and not to be mean-spirited, but if the government quit giving money to foreign aid and started putting it where it should go, then they wouldn’t have to decrease their funding for the disabled.
For every hundred pounds that’s made in the United Kingdom, seventy pence goes towards foreign aid. The government has a target to allocate 0.7 per cent of the UK’s Gross National Income on overseas development aid every year.
In 2016, the UK spent £13.4 billion on overseas aid, in line with the 0.7 per cent target, and because the UK economy is set to get bigger over the next few years the true rate of development aid spending is anticipated to increase, and by 2021 we could be spending about £14.5 billion, based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts in 2016 prices.
That’s a little uncertain though, the amount we really end up spending will depend on how much the economy grows.
But it’s not only about disabled people, what about parents with buggies wanting to access the tube stations that have no lifts, which makes it extremely challenging for parents to take their children out for the day, so they endeavour to take the buggies on the escalators, which is very dangerous.
We live in the 21st century where everything should be accessible to all, and we pay enough in our taxes to cover this, but the government appear to be cutting back on everything, why? Because it appears to be more advantageous for our government to give to foreign aid, rather than putting it back into our country.
Our environment has a significant bearing on a person with a disability, but when we examine easy access, for instance, a ramp, better-designed pavement curbs, lifts, buses, train platforms with a similar height to the train flooring, people who don’t have a disability can also benefit.
For instance, parents with pushchairs and the elderly, after all, our environment has an impact on all of us, sadly, present and former governments don’t appear to view such matters as a priority, and people with mobility difficulties and other disabilities should be given preference, after all, such is given to the royalty of this country, and if the royal family needed all buildings to be accessible by wheelchair, you can bet your bottom dollar it would happen without fail.
Sadly, society treats disabled people as the weakest members of our society, and the United Kingdom scores at the lowest level for this. We have all used or will use wheelchairs, the luckiest of us start in prams, later use prams and eventually end up in wheelchairs, some are less fortunate, and suitable access is to everyone’s benefit, and we all deserve to benefit from that provision.
This is an enormous difficulty, except if you’re not disabled, although being disabled has differing levels of ability, and most people would have trouble somewhere, able-bodied people tend to bypass these kinds of difficulties.
Imagine being plonked on the side of a mountain without any climbing experience, well, that’s what living in a wheelchair can seem like at times, but there’s also degrees of miscomprehension about disabled people, which is a prevalent human shortcoming.
But on top of the problems with the shortage of facilities at train stations, most stations that do have toilets are routinely left in a shocking state and lack of basic hygiene and the behaviour from society as a whole is rather shocking, and we should fail to understand how in this day and age accessible buildings are not compulsory.
There’s no justification for this, and it shows like many other things that this is a total and absolute failure from our government to do what is necessary because our slothful politicians want to control us, and the current laws are not being obeyed, these laws need to be clear with complete access to all buildings, and penalties need to be forced on builders, architects, building owners as long as the problems get resolved.
Of course, old buildings do have problems, but nothing is impossible, and buildings over the last 30 years have no excuse, new buildings, being built now have no excuse, and a 6-year-old could come up with a solution, but our indolent government sit there scratching their arsehole while their falling asleep on the benches.
There is always an obvious solution but no one in government gives a damn about it and always come up with reasons why it can’t be done, usually because they can’t be bothered to consider it a problem to start with, and want to save a few quid at the expense of the disabled.
Sadly, there appear to be some amazingly mean-spirited people out there who seem to think that disabled people should put up and shut up and be banished from society simply because ramps take up space and building renovations might cost a little more.
Listed buildings might be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to accessibility because the necessary adjustment would often breach the listed building regulations, but that could quickly be overcome with portable ramps that stay in place all the time, that way no adjustments have to be done to the building, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.