Disabled Passengers Experience Discrimination On Public Transport

December 7, 2012
By Eve Pearce

Traveling with a disability is rarely simple, but it can be made easier by companies and governments offering wheelchair friendly solutions for public transport. However, many people believe that these measures don’t currently stretch far enough.

Traveling by bus: transport that drives on by

Wheel-chair bound individuals in North East England have complained they have been discriminated against by buses who fail to stop from them. Bus company Arriva North East says its bus-driver employees complied with the guidelines issued by the Department for Transport guideline, however it has received a raft of complaints.

According to the solicitor representing a group of disabled people, the incidents stretch back over several years, with passengers being left on the pavement and told to wait for the next bus. Allegedly, bus drivers have not gone far enough to ensure disabled passengers have enough space to travel.

Seven disabled people made complaints that they had been denied space on public transport when the area allocated to them was taken up by a pram or pushchair.

The bus company said staff did not have to make other passengers move if they occupied the wheelchair spaces.

Traveling by rail: campaigners lobby parliament

The problem of disabled access of public transport appears to be wide and far reaching, as separate groups campaigned in London, lobbying Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, in an attempt to gain better accessibility on trains.

Campaigners complained about the decrease in staff at railway stations, which causes problems for disabled people as it makes it incredibly difficult to board vehicles. However, the Department for Transport retorted that they are currently improving railway station accessibility as part of the Access for All programme, for which £400 million has been earmarked.

The money has been set aside to provide disabled passengers with step-free routes aboard trains. One hundred and fifty four stations are said to be benefiting from these improvements, with another £100 million ready to inject into the programme and boost accessibility by 2019. The scheme also incorporates small improvements to accessibility at 1,000 other railway stations.

However, the campaign displays wheelchair users’ dissatisfaction that the plans will not be implemented quickly enough and shows that more needs to be done.

Disabled parking

In Scotland, one man has dedicated the last 10 years of his life to photographing able-bodied drivers who park in disabled bays at his local Asda store. Leslie Ironside, who is a carer for his disabled mother, has lodged a series of complaints against the store – all of which have been ignored.

He has even caught the parking warden whose job it is to patrol the car park driving his vehicle into a designated mother and baby space.

Rogue parkers at the store are supposed to be fined £70, but Mr Ironside claims that this is not actively policed. Responding, Asda stated that all drivers who park wrongfully in designated disabled spaces will be fined and the money donated to charity. The store claims it has raised over £44,000 for Tommy’s baby charity and Motability since 2011.

Disabled parking spaces cause contentious issues around the world, with able-bodied drivers flouting the rules and companies and governmental organisations not providing enough spaces for the amount of disabled drivers. Taxi drivers have also complained that they are not given enough space outside of many stores to drop off and pick up wheelchair users, using their specialist ramps and equipment. One taxi driver in Knutsford, England, says the town centre’s streets and lack of access make it difficult for wheelchair user to visit shops in the area. He says that when he drops of passengers his van is regularly beeped at by other drivers, despite the fact he drives a specially adapted vehicle to cater for disabled drivers.

Despite the problems with parking, driving represents one of the best choices of travel for disabled people. Driving a car offers freedom to travel even where public transport doesn’t reach and to your own time frame. A car is also ideal for trips to the supermarket as it allows you to transport more shopping than you possibly can on a bus.