A wheelchair user is forced to crawl onto a train because the train company’s assistance failed – this is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in the way disabled and older passengers are treated say disabled activists as they launch a major rail access campaign today – Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike is supporting the campaign, after revealing she was forced to wet herself on a train without accessible toilet.
Today disability rights campaigners from Transport for All are launching their ‘Rail Access Now’ campaign. We are demanding that the Government and rail companies take action to uphold disabled and older people’s right to travel with freedom and independence.
It is a cause for national shame that in 2017 only 1/5 railway stations have step free access, and that disabled passengers are required to book 24hours in advance to guarantee they can travel. Even then the assistance often doesn’t turn up.
The daily struggle disabled people face when accessing the railways has been highlighted by story of David McQuirk, a wheelchair using commuter. David makes his daily journey using South West trains and was recently forced to crawl onto the train when staff failed to assist him.
As with all disabled passengers, David is told to book assistance 24 hours in advance in order to guarantee he will be able to travel. Despite this, and frequent complaints to the operator he finds that assistance fails to turn up on nearly half of his journeys forcing him to choose between being trapped on the platform or dragging himself onto the train in order to make it to work on time.
Dave McQuirk says “I’m an articulate, confident regular traveller and I still have this incredible stressful ‘will I, won’t I’ worry every morning.”
“Everyone knows commuting is tedious and subject to disruption – I can put up with that. What I find infuriating is the difficulty, delay and uncertainty that I face just because I’m a wheelchair user trying to use the railway network like anyone else. That’s why Transport for All’s Rail Access Now campaign is so important. It’s time we held the Government and train operators to account for their record on accessibility”
Sadly David’s experiences are far from an isolated incident; Transport for All’s helpline receives regularly complaints from disabled and older people struggling to access rail.
Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike MBE is supporting the campaign. Rail accessibility recently hit the headlines with she revealed that she was forced to wet herself on a long train journey after the only accessible toilet on board was not working.
Anne Wafula Strike says “I was robbed of my dignity on one of my train journeys. It made me feel like I should just stay in behind closed doors. Having access to a toilet is such a basic right and I know I am just one of so many other disabled people who has suffered from this-that’s why I chose to speak out”
“I may have an impairment but the barriers society puts in my path are the only things that hold me back”.
Faryal Velmi, Director of Transport for All says: “It beggars believe that in 2017 rail companies despite making handsome profits are being allowed to treat disabled people in this way. How many more horrific stories of the shameful treatment disabled people experience on a daily basis need to hit the headlines before the Government take action.
“It’s time for us to take the fight to the Government and the train operating companies and demand that they protect disabled people’s basic right to travel and live their lives like anyone else. That’s why we’re launching Rail Access Now”