This morning I caught the bus to work with a young man in a wheelchair and it made me think.
The young man will be about 13 and was making his way independently to school just like most of his peers; or not!
The bus duly arrived after navigating its way round parked cars, recycling lorries and turning traffic. The bus driver clearly did not see the young man in his wheel chair so stopped where most passengers could climb aboard. Meanwhile the young man was waiting by the side door which is fitted with a ramp. The driver still didn’t see him and when we pointed this out to her she had to move the bus to operate the ramp. Eventually this was done and our disabled passenger manoeuvred himself into the safe position on the bus.
His next problem was how to pay for his journey. The Oyster card reader is at the front of the bus, near the driver. Even if the bus had not been standing room only there would have been no way for him to get to the Oyster reader. How difficult would it be to install another Oyster reader in the space reserved for wheelchairs and buggies?
So we continue our journey until we arrive at the young man’s school. How does he tell the bus driver he wants to get off? Yet again he needed help from his fellow passengers and the bus driver needed to move the bus again until she could operate the ramp. Why not install a push button in the wheelchair space that flashed a light or a sounded a different bell in the driver’s cab so that any driver would know when the ramp was required?
This young man is entitled to travel to school independently just like his peers but he couldn’t do it this morning without help from his fellow passengers. That can’t be right.
His experience certainly made me think. I thought we were improving accessibility on public transport in the UK but it takes more than a ramp to do this. The law requires public organisations to consult with disabled people about their services. This morning’s experience proved why this is so necessary. Every organisation, even small businesses needs to look at their services from their potential customers’ perspective. Just how accessible are those services to the young, the old, the disabled, parents with buggies etc? At the very least we need to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes or better still ask them for their opinions.