Accessibility For All
Earlier this year, I injured my knee in a (terrifically embarrassing) ceilidh accident. It was badly bruised and remained swollen and sore for weeks afterwards – so for a while, I couldn’t move around as freely as I’m used to without suffering pain.
While my knee went through the various shades of purple and brown that were part of the recovery process, it hurt to climb up to the top deck of the bus. On my usual journey, I now needed to sit on the bottom deck, without the view over Manchester’s streets that I usually enjoy. Even though I could still travel on the bus and was able to get where I needed to go, my travelling experiences were impaired because of my sore knee.
While my injury didn’t affect me seriously or for a long period of time, so it doesn’t at all compare to the experience of having a disability, I think there’s an apt metaphor here for transport accessibility issues as a whole. Accessibility isn’t an on/off switch: sometimes, even if you can use a service, you may end up feeling marginalised when you do. Perhaps you can get on the train with the help of a ramp, but the staff at the station aren’t accommodating and make you feel like a nuisance. Perhaps the bus driver helps you and your guide dog get onto the bus, but there’s no space for your guide dog to lie down out of harm’s way.
It isn’t enough for authorities to provide the bare minimum of accessibility – they must ensure that facilities are appropriate to people’s needs so that, whatever their ability or disability, everyone is able to travel with ease and in comfort. The Transport Committee recently consulted with disabled people about their experiences of transport accessibility in the UK, and will produce a report in coming weeks with recommendations to the Government for improving access to transport.
The testimony of disabled people and their carers about the difficulties they encounter just trying to get from A to B, still available to read online, shows that the Paralympic legacy has a long way to go before everyone feels they can move about as quickly and easily as Jonnie Peacock. I hope that the Transport Committee’s recommendations will emphasise the need to make improvements to accessibility; and I hope that the Government will commit to making sure that disabled people can feel fully welcome on public transport services which are accessible to everyone.