I’m Bal and I have a condition called Mitochondrial DNA disease. It affects my muscles, my speech, and I can’t walk anymore, so I use a wheelchair.
I’m really excited that Scope and the Department for Transport are going to be working together on a disabled passenger’s charter.
I experience so many frustrations trying to get around. The new charter will provide passengers like me with information about my rights as a disabled person, and what I should expect from transport operators whilst travelling around the whole of England.
There were no wheelchair accessible taxis available
Recently I went to London for my birthday celebrations and to catch up with my family. We all met for a mini celebration before heading to a brunch bar.
I had a table booked for 1:30pm, just a 10-minute taxi journey from where we were staying.
At 1pm we tried to book two wheelchair accessible taxis on different apps. After 15 minutes of searching, we realised there were no accessible taxis available. I told my cousins to grab a taxi and go ahead without us to secure our booking.
The rest of us continued searching for accessible taxis with no luck. Eventually we had no choice but to catch a bus. This made us extremely late and put me at risk of injury because the wheelchair designated space was unavailable.
After brunch, I had another reservation a mile away. We had plenty of time to get between the two venues, or so I thought. We left the restaurant and again tried unsuccessfully to book an accessible taxi.
So, once more the group split with four people going ahead to secure the next reservation and the rest of us continuing to try and find a means of getting me there.
I had to be carried up the stairs of the Tube station
Eventually, we decided to try the Tube as we were close to a station and the bar was next to a Tube station only three stops away.
We entered the Tube station, but there were no signs indicating whether either station had a lift or were wheelchair accessible. There was also no-one that we could ask.
My cousin went through the ticket barrier and found a lift down to the platform. So, we managed to get the tube. But when we reached the other station, we found two flights of stairs.
My cousin walked up the stairs and asked the people in the ticket office if there was a lift. There was not and the closest one was five stations down the line, meaning we would be travelling further away from our destination than we were when we started our Tube journey.
We discussed returning to the station we had used to enter the Tube, but because it was unstaffed, we didn’t know who we could ask for advice or support there. The decision was made to carry me up the stairs first and sit me on the floor and then for my family to carry my electric wheelchair up the stairs.
We struggled to get home due to inaccessible transport
I had already booked assistance for a midday train the next day, but again, we struggled to secure a wheelchair accessible taxi to get to the station. Instead of the leisurely breakfast we’d planned, we had to spend the entire morning finding other means of transport.
Eventually we reached the station by bus but, once we’d made the dash to the Mobility Assistance Office, the train was already in the platform. We made it with just 5 minutes to spare, having spent hours trying to make what would have been a 10-minute taxi journey.
This charter will make getting around easier for me and other disabled passengers
When I get on the bus, I expect to be able to get into the wheelchair designated space, but this wasn’t possible as the buses in London were overcrowded. This meant that if there had been any sort of collision during my bus journeys, I would’ve been in danger of injuring myself or of causing injury to someone else.
Another thing that would have eased my frustrations would’ve been improved signage around tube stations informing me about how wheelchair accessible they were and to where additional wheelchair accessible transport was located.
Public transport should be accessible for everyone. Having this Charter passed will help me and my family make better, more informed decisions by providing information that is easy to find.