Thursday, 14 June 2012

Right to Ride demonstration for accessible transport ... Half a million may lose access to DLA. Is our transport system ready?

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Transport for All have announced the biggest transport demo in the UK since the 1990s, on Tuesday, 19th June 2012.

The ‘Right to Ride’ day will see between 50 and 100 disabled people gathering at a bus stop outside the House of Commons, and riding together to the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the bus industry.

Participants have also invited their MPs to join them on the ride, to see the reality of travelling as a disabled person. The bus stop at which protesters are meeting is one of the 40% of London bus stops which is not fully accessible – in this case because it is too high for a wheelchair ramp.

The demonstration aims to highlight that inaccessible transport is one of the major barriers to disabled people getting into work. Demonstrators are calling for a procurement process where bus and train companies with a poor track record on accessibility are denied future contracts.

Under Government proposals, 500,000 people could lose their Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Many of us use this for taxis, to qualify for a Blue Badge or to lease a Motability car. The projected drop-off in DLA claimants will lead to a large increase in disabled people dependent on public transport.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC, said ‘The Government’s drive towards forcing disabled people off benefits and (often inappropriately) into work is ideological rhetoric. Many disabled people want to work, but any effort to do so is undermined when we are denied access to buses by ill-trained bus drivers, or stations which are simply out of bounds. Accessible transport should be one of the cornerstones of everyday living, enabling a healthy working, family and community life. Instead, we are being failed on a daily basis and no-one is being called to account’.

Lianna Etkind, Campaigns Coordinator at Transport for All, said: “At a time when millions of pounds are being spent on schemes to get disabled people into work, it’s scandalous that foot-dragging by transport providers means thousands of disabled people can’t even get to work. Without DLA, many will be left dependent on a transport system which fails disabled people on a daily basis. Unless there is improvement to rail and bus access, many of these people, previously dependent on taxis or a car, will be left virtually housebound. Not able to get to family, to shops, to participate in public life: we will simply become invisible.”

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton said: “Before I became a Parliamentarian, I was highly active in campaigning for a whole range of disability civil rights including the Right to Ride. For me – and thousands of other disabled people – getting on a bus and going places with the rest of the British public not only provides one with a sense of equality but also gives us the freedom to be independent citizens who work, rest and play. We have a Right to Ride to the shops, to see our families or go to the office like every other person. It is a fundamental freedom and worth fighting for to the bitter end.”

I've invited my local MP, Diane Abbott, to join us and hope to meet her there. I look forward to reporting on our attempts ... Boldly To Go ... soon after the event.

. If you have a pair of red/cyan anaglyph specs handy you'll notice that the image above, of the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster (aka Big Ben), is not actually out of focus, it is just photographed using my homemade 3D camera.

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