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Tackling public transport as a wheelchair user
Public transport, it’s something that is a part of many
people’s everyday lives and perhaps something most people don’t give much
thought to. They just hop on and off the bus or train and get where they need
to go with minimal problems, minus delayed services. But, when you’re disabled
public transport can easily be something you wish to avoid or even something
you fear. We’ve all heard, if not experienced, the horror stories of assistance
not arriving to get you off a train or being denied access to the wheelchair
space on the bus. Unfortunately, these situations do happen and can be off
putting but I wanted to share some of my tips today of how I tackle public
transport as a wheelchair user to hopefully make things seem a little less
The first time I got the bus and train as a powerchair user I was terrified but now almost 3 years on I’m using public transport every week with confidence and that’s what plays such a big part for me. Growing confidence takes time, the more you do something the less intimidating it is, that doesn’t mean things stop going wrong it just means you have more experience to deal with it. Trust that in time the journeys will become less daunting.
Working in conjunction with that is planning for the worst but hoping for the best. Now this won’t work for everyone, but I find planning for the worst-case scenario helps to calm some of my anxieties. For example, if I’m on a train and my assistance doesn’t arrive at the other end I stop the doors from closing with my footplate (mine is sturdy but still breakable so this isn’t particularly advisable but works for me) and ask another passenger to find a member of staff for me. I find the anxiety about these situations happening is worse in the build-up than the actual event. When things go wrong, I tend to switch into ‘okay, let’s fix this’ mode very quickly now!
I also recommend educating yourself on your rights, learn some of the language of the law that you can use when situations like a buggy being in the wheelchair space on a bus happens. It’s not easy speaking up for yourself and asserting your rights but they are your rights and we shouldn’t be afraid to let people know that. I know in practice sometimes it’s not always possible and I’ve definitely stayed quiet before out of fear of starting an argument but again, in time it becomes easier.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to complain when things go wrong, progress happens when we speak up and say something is not good enough. Of course, we don’t always have the energy to complain about everything, I know I certainly don’t but always remember that it’s okay to say something isn’t okay. We don’t have to be grateful for or accept less than systems like public transport could be doing better.
Do you have any tips to share? Have you had any recent positive journeys using public transport?
Marfan Syndrome Advocate