Wheelchair users, please stop disrespecting public transport

In the last 45 years, I have seen the accessibility of public transport for wheelchair users and people with other impairments improve in leaps and bounds on many fronts. It is obviously not perfect and there is still a lot of work still to be done in some areas, but it can not be denied that it is very different to when I was a child.

The important point to understand is the case for accessible transport was won many years ago around the world as a general policy and now it is an issue of implementation. This means that any new transport or transport hubs. including renovated ones, are absolutely likely to consider accessibility issues from the start.

The problem is the existing pre-accessible transport and hubs. They will be renovated in the end but it is a matter of time, costs, resources and priority. Therefore any campaign for accessible transport should focus on these factors.

While I accept public transport is not perfect, I do not think it is fair for wheelchair users to endlessly berate the system on what are general difficulties. Sometimes a broken toilet is just a broken toilet, and if someone has to wait for another bus because there is another wheelchair user is in the allocated space, it is simply the reality and norms of a system which can not be perfect however much it tries not an anti-disabled conspiracy.

Also, if a wheelchair user has to wait for a ramp off their train, it may be because staff are over-stretched and can not be in two places at once, or there was a communication difficulty with the boarding station. This is the same with airport assistance. These are not the crimes of the century and do not need to be reported in the media when there is an angry tweet from a wheelchair user.

I never book assistance when I use the train because I believe if you are patient, polite and respectful about their role and limitations, staff will mostly always be helpful in putting you on the next available train. And if you can’t get me on the next train, I smile and tell them its fine as I wait a bit longer. This requires a selfishness attitude which some wheelchair users try not to show.

I am not saying current wheelchair users should accept second best but rather to appreciate a little more the battles that were fought and won by wheelchair users before then which has provided accessible transport and their opportunity to moan about these smaller elements.

Going forward, the battles ahead will involve the conflict with parents and their battleship sized pushchairs as they seek to share, or not share, the spaces wheelchair users legally fought for, and have a right to. Another controversial issue is mobility scooters and whether this form of road transport should be allowed on public transport never designed to handle them.

Our achievements in public transport should be generally celebrated for the liberation and inclusion it brings, not berated as some form of disability moaning conformity.

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