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.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

To boldly go ... where everyone else has gone before!

Sadly I learnt of it too late to do anything for Blogging Against Disablism Day on May 1st so I'm glad I got a chance to do a little something for Global Accessibility Awareness Day yesterday.

So why did I make the map in my first post? I'm disabled and have built up some knowledge of where I can, and cannot, travel independently in London (on those occasions when I'm well enough to leave the house). This being 2012 I got to wondering what it might be like for friends/fellow wheelchair users who may visit London for the first time. Some might be expecting an accessible journey, particularly on some of our super modern Underground and Overground lines; but some of the system dates back to 1863 and it shows!

Many Transport for London maps, posters, etc. show a wheelchair symbol, indicating that access from the street to the station platform is "step free". However, the vertical step and horizontal gap from the platform to the train can be up to 323mm (12.7 inches) for the step and up to a 253 mm (10 inch) gap, denying wheelchair users the dignity of independent travel.

So, about eight months ago I set about gathering information from various maps, rail station information websites (and actually visiting some platforms with a tape measure) amending a TfL step-free map [see my image below] and, from that, I've drawn up a guide map of lines, stations and accessible toilets - for independent travel by manual wheelchair users. I did this primarily for my own use and amusement but I've been encouraged to share it with other disabled people.

The end result - given my chosen criteria [the horizontal gap between the train and platform is 85mm (3.3 inches) or less and the vertical step is 50mm (2 inches) or less] - surprised me. In particular I noticed that overseas visitors to London might get on at Heathrow Terminals 1,2 & 3 and discover that the only other accessible station on the Piccadilly Line is Heathrow Terminal 4! Of course, if one manages to book at least 24 hours in advance and specifies precisely when you will arrive, you might get lucky and have a staff member turn up to put a ramp in and allow you use some of the other London stations, but there's no guarantee and it's neither convenient nor fosters independence.

Thank you Lisa for your comment above (I'm honoured you've visited here). I questioned myself about whether I should put in those "odd" stations - such as Earls Court - where there may be access on one platform, but not for the other platform and I decided against including it; on the grounds that the station is not really accessible for travel. Invariably when I use a station I need to know that I can travel both to that destination and away from it ... and preferably in either direction.

I wanted it uncluttered but I kept the Piccadilly Line in because I wanted to show the potential danger of getting on at either of the Heathrow stations and then finding that you couldn't get off anywhere else! As for the Metropolitan Line, I believe it has the trains but does not yet have any accessible stations feeding it; when its platform at Kings Cross comes on line I'll add it (but I suspect, like the Piccadilly Line, it might look a bit lonely for sometime to come).

I realise that, for those cool athletic wheelchair users who are capable of doing wheelies (or have a PA with them), my map might look over cautious and restrictive - and it is certainly no substitute for the comprehensive TfL step-free map - but I wanted to draw one that could be quickly easily understood by another disabled person travelling independently by manual wheelchair on London Underground, London Overground and DLR (and also, perhaps, that it would indicate the true state of access in London to those with power to improve transport - BoJo, please note). However, the castors on some powered wheelchairs have a diameter as small as 72mm (2.8 inches) which would reduce the access to even fewer stations than I have indicated.

Oh! and I substituted the somewhat passive looking International Symbol of Access (which TfL sometimes uses) with a more dynamic one, reflecting use by independent wheelchair users.

For anyone with an emerging interest in maps of the London Underground (in particular, the alternative ones), if you don't yet know it, you can't miss the following brilliant resources:'s maps

And, for those with a wicked sense of humour, don't miss these:

Diamond Geezer's blueprint


Diamond Geezer's step-too-far

All comments/criticisms welcome (I think!)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wheelchair user? Welcome to independent travel in London 2012

The title of this blog "Boldly to go" borrows shamelessly from the disability rights slogan ... "To boldly go where everyone else has been before".

Today - May 9th - is Global Accessibil​ity Awareness Day. I have very little knowledge of the digital world (which appears to be the focus for the event) but I thought I would launch something digital ... and on accessibility.

The only event taking place in the UK (as far as I can see) is the following in Wales:

So I'm sharing my very own resource instead, namely, the map I "created" - entirely for my own benefit for travelling round London. Click on the map to enlarge. Notes to follow in my next post.