Rail Journeys and Access issues for a wheelchair user!

On 4th January I had cause to travel to London with my Hubby and son. Managed to book the tickets the day before, luckily still got plenty of discount as was unlikely to be a popular travel time.

I booked the tickets online as usual, got the discount for having a Disabled Rail Card all fine any dandy. Well that is what the ordinary punter would think.

Then a Wheelchair user must contact the Travel Assistance people to arrange transfers & assistance. This will ensure there is a person at the train with a ramp so that you and your wheelchair can board. Why there can’t be a box to click to say you need a wheelchair ramp and to book the correct space, I don’t know, but the people on the assistance line are fantastic to be fair & you can usually have a lovely chat.

The staff are really helpful on the assistance line and they then send you an email confirming the changes and that you are booked.

It appears that something happens between the Assistance Team and the Ramp people because for some reason there often appears to be a wheelchair and a person sat at the train doors waiting for a ramp to get them on or off.

Now on say 85% of journeys this system seems to work well. However from time to time there seems to be some sort of black hole of information sharing.

Yesterday got on the train ok but there was much kerfuffle the trains being coupled together were not the trains that were meant to be put together but the train seemed to go off on time.

We were aware of possible delays, the weather being as it was. We arrived exactly 22 minutes late as we were advised thought the journey. You’d expect that with advance notice that the assistance at the other end would be ready and waiting for me to disembark? No not a chance, I was left waiting for a good 15 minutes for the ramp to arrive. If I hadn’t booked it in advance I’d have expected it but I’d booked and was just left sitting there like a spare part. Good job I wasnt getting off at a stop along the way or I’d end up travelling up and down the lines until I was able to make a bid for freedom.

I did contemplate trying to take a good wheelup and trying to leap like Evil Keneval from the train onto the platform. My son persuaded me not to do that until I have had my wheelchair upgraded and a jet pack fitted.

The return journey was much better and luckily we had the kind of tickets that meant we could leave on an earlier train, the assistance man was called whilst we were speaking to mobility assistance people. We got on the train easily and the staff on board asked a number of time where I needed to get off and they must have been in excellent contact with the assistance staff because the ramp was there ready to be placed by the doors so that I could get off immediately.

The system could with just a tiny bit of thought be so much better. There are very limited numbers of wheelchair spaces on trains so if it were possible to arrange it all within the online process it would save so much time and worry for so many disabled people.

Another thing that baffles me is why on Virgin Trains the wifi is from another provider! That seems a bizarre thing to do when Virgin operate the trains, it would make sense to use their own wifi on their trains.

This may not seem a big deal but getting around in a wheelchair is not as easy as you may imagine, despite the Disabaility Discrimination Act and the regulations regarding access etc etc, so many places are not accessible.

It doesn’t appear to be a problem to most people until they are with a disabled friend in a wheelchair, then they realise how much of a problem access for wheelchair users really are. That’s possibly why you don’t see many disabled people out and about more often.

Even kerb dips can be a major problem. Many are not parallel to each other and this can cause fear, risk of injury and means the going to anywhere unfamiliar is filled with anxiety and dread. It really isn’t much to ask that there be dips at every kerb, that they are not steep and that they have the all important raised srones to help the blind so that they know they are coming to the end of a footpath. The parallel dips also assist them as they can walk forward in a straight line and know they have reached the edge of the pavement and are no longer at risk of traffic.

Little things that needn’t cost much if anything at all. When a road is dug up by a utility company that part of the reparation to the public for the inconvenience is that they put the dipped kerbs in. At least then the public will feel they have at least gained some benefit from the whole disruption.

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Big Benefits Row

Ok have just tried to watch the #BigBenefitsRow. I know many others on twitter and other social media have done the same.

I make no secret of my physical ill health and disability nor my mental illness. I refuse to hide it because it’s part of me and I believe in honesty.

I am on benefits, no I don’t like it, yes I’d love to be well enough to get back into work. I do apply for jobs still, I do have a lot to offer but being realistic my health issues make it basically impossible for any employer to give me a chance unless I could do it all from home at times to suit me and my illness/medication.

I like many others want to feel useful and not surplus to societies requirements. I am able and do try to help people via e-mail, telephone, at times to suit me. It pays nothing but i do get that glow of satisfaction that I’ve helped make life a little better for another person or family.

Some people can’t do what I can for many reasons, they do feel down, it can lead to a spiral of depression this is one of the mental issues people want to talk about & get help via sorts of talking therapies such Psychotherapy. Alas access to good mental health help varies throughout the country. With help being so sporadic & ranging from great to being put on a waiting list for years! Surely it is better to treat the person via immediately accessible mental health services then they would be able to get well, have the help and return to some work slowly and eventually they would be able to work full time and not be reliant on benefits. All of these approaches must have a caveat, some people with all the help possible are simply not able to cope in the world of work. So this will work for some but not all.

I am all for working if you are able bodied and not suffering from a severe or mental illness. We have read and seen how people in a coma, in severe kidney failure and on dialysis, people who have had strokes, brain tumours etc who are told they are fit for work because they can lift an empty cardboard box, put a pen in their top pocket and hold a 2litre milk carton. This does not take into account the way the illness/disease actually prevents them from being available to work for certain amounts of time etc.

Yes there are some people who do abuse the system, yes there are some who pretend to be single parents when they have their partner live with them. This is because the rules make it financially beneficial to be “a single parent” rather than valuing marriage, cohabitation etc which is really the best for any kids to live in a two parent family.

Some people are told at the Job Centre they will be worse off by £x.xx if they take this or that job. That is wrong and people should be better off in work than on benefits. However, when we take a view of it like “if I take this job I will lose out on time with my child, most money will go on childcare, the cost of travel to work, and with all taken in to account I will be £3 per week worse or better off”

In the above scenario you will get many people who would rather be in work and will take it because being on benefits and not having a routine, a place to be, a reason to get up and get outside can leave a person really isolated. There are more than just money that is gained when a person takes employment. These other really positive aspects aren’t discussed. I humbly suggest they are.

I think people are brassed off with those people, small minority, who have never worked and seem to have a much nicer lifestyle than the person working on minimum wage. It can get vey upsetting and it can be irksome.

However, those people may have “invisible” health conditions that mean they cannot work, again this aspect is overlooked in any discussions.

I had until I got sick, 5 years or so ago, I had always worked and or been in education. I am only just coming to terms with the steep decline of my health and it’s still no fun and I don’t like being in this position. I’d give anything to be able to control my illness (there is no cure) so that I could maybe work part time. I know lots of others I a very similar situation.

There is no easy answer to this but I do feel that putting pensions into the same calculation does give a very warped view of the money spent on benefits. Maybe it would be helpful if the costs were put into their respective headings. It may help.

We have had a really terrible down turn, recession, double dip recession and during that time many thousands of people have lost their jobs, in some areas they have found it almost impossible to find any other job. Lots of people have moved to find work. Many cannot due to children being in eduction at a critical time such as SATS, GCSE’S or at College undertaking education or training.

Anyway remember 99% of people who are out of work, wish they were in work. We have graduates on the checkout at supermarkets, alas this is a state of the employment market BUT I respect everybody who takes a job they are vastly over qualified for because they would rather have some money coming in rather than being on benefits.

Benefits street as a programme focused on such a tiny microcosm that is it impossible to to actually use that as an example of the norm for all those who are out of work and claiming benefits.

Maybe there should be a programme on showing how hard many people try to get a job, any job. Showing the people who send off vast numbers of applications per day yet don’t even get an email/letter/phone call back to acknowledge their application or to say thanks but no thanks.

Most of all you must for the most part think “There but for the grace of god go I” because sadly illness and injury can change your life over night.

Well that’s my 2p’s worth if it’s worth anything at all?

Twitter Spats

Further to a rather public twitter spat today. I thought for clarity that I should publish the e-mails sent between John Pring of the Disability News Service & myself. I do have an e-mail sent by a senior member of the party also but will not publish that as they haven’t been party to the events of today.

I was asked, as you can see from below, by John Pring to commit to a 10 point disabled persons manifesto to be adopted but UKIP and promoted by the party in the EU. Please note that he states the 10 point plan is one put together from two Disabled Persons Groups from Europe. Not anywhere was I officially told that one or both of the groups are funded by EU money.

I stated and I still do that 3 of the 10 (numbers 7, 9, & 10) items i could on a cursory glance agree with. These where the only 3 of the 10 that could be utilised in the UK without being members of the EU. Obviously as a member of UKIP I am hardly likely to state that I support all 10 it just isn’t feasible in any reality that I would.

Was I set up to fail? Was I set up to reject them all so I could be cast as an unfeeling person who doesn’t want to make life better for the disabled people and their families in the UK.

Well make your own minds up, no doubt the there will be a mix of opinions but that’s ok.

For the record I am not paid, I work 99% of the time from my bed. I always reply to people who come to me via our national website and my personal website. I try to help anyone who asks me and there have been some lovely comments made about me and the help I have given people all over the UK. I use my own resources, my own stamps, everything. I pay for the website from my own meagre funds and ask for nothing from anyone. I do what I do because people need someone to turn to, I won’t change that and people who don’t like me or don’t think I’m acting the way they think I should. My response is at least I am trying when you try to give your time and assistance for free come back and tell me you have done it the way others expect you to, I bet you wont have and I bet you will have your own set of detractors !!!!

Can’t please all of the people all of the time!

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On 11 Apr 2014, at 15:11, “John Pring” wrote:
Hi Star

Hope all is well with you.

I’m putting a news story together for later this month on the disability policies of the main parties, before next month’s European elections. I have a list of 10 policies, which I have selected from the manifestos put out by two of the leading European disabled people’s organisations (see below).

Can you tell me which of them your party agrees with, and which it doesn’t?

My deadline isn’t for a couple of weeks so there’s no rush.

Best wishes,

John

1 To adopt and pass into law a strong European Accessibility Act (proposed EU legislation on the accessibility of goods and services in the EU internal market)
2 To adopt and pass into law the proposed EU directive on the accessibility of public websites (which will make those websites accessible to disabled people)
3 The adoption of the proposed general non-discrimination directive (EU law designed to protect disabled people (and other groups) from discrimination in all areas of life)
4 The ratification by the EU and all member states of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
5 The introduction of a legal right to live independently
6 The introduction of a dedicated directorate for disability within the European Commission
7 To stop EU funds being invested in segregated institutions for disabled people
8 To ensure inclusive education for all disabled children and young people
9 To provide more funding for local and national organisations led by disabled people
10 To reverse austerity cuts in services and benefits for disabled people

Here are the two original manifestos, if you want to see where these came from:

European Disability Forum:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/47lnldkxbyg7pi2/EDF%20Manifesto%20on%20the%20EU%20elections%202014.doc

European Network on Independent Living:
http://www.enil.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ENIL-Manifesto.pdf

John Pring
Editor: Disability News Service
Author: Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal
Tel: 020 8446 5900, 07776 206595
Email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com
Website: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Twitter: @johnpringdns

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From: Star Etheridge [mailto:staretheridge08@hotmail.co.uk]
Sent: 11 April 2014 15:55
To: John Pring
Subject: Re: European elections

Dear John

On a cursory glance I think 7, 9 & 10 are ones that I personally agree with.

Many of the others are already available in British Law. As for laws of other countries I cannot confirm the status.

As you know MEP’s do not make the law, they have very little influence on any of the directives/laws that are put through to be voted on.

The Council Of Ministers, we do not vote for them & have very little if any influence on the legislation that is put forward for the MEP’s to vote on.

The laws are usually put through on bloc as a raft of legislation & even if there is one item in the bloc that any MEP agreed with they will have to assent to say 9 others they do not agree with.

I have put the questions to our policy director as this is above my jurisdiction as a Spokesmen.

I would also like there to be a complete repeal of “The Removal Of a The Spare Room Subsidy” legislation but if not a full repeal then at least to have Disabled exempt from housing benefit reduction.

Best wishes

Kindest regards

Mrs Star Etheridge
UKIP Disability Spokesman

http://www.staretheridge.co.uk

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On 25 Apr 2014, at 12:07, “John Pring” wrote:
Hi Star

Just chasing you on responses to the European elections questions (see below). Next week will be ok, but the final deadline is next Friday (2 May).

Hope that is OK and all is well with you.

Best wishes,

John

John Pring
Editor: Disability News Service
Author: Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal
Tel: 020 8446 5900, 07776 206595
Email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com
Website: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Twitter: @johnpringdns

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From: Star Etheridge [mailto:staretheridge08@hotmail.co.uk]
Sent: 28 April 2014 12:56
To: John Pring
Subject: Re: European elections

Hi John

I have not had any communication from our Policy Director. So I can only say that policies 7, 9 & 10 are those which I personally support as UKIP Spokesman but I cannot say that I have the Policy Director nor our NEC’s support.

So I can only say that I personally support 7, 9 and 10 which I think are very good common sense clauses.

Best wishes

Kindest regards

Mrs Star Etheridge
UKIP Disability Spokesman

http://www.staretheridge.co.uk

Please leave any comments at http://www.staretheridge.co.uk/comments-and-guestbook/

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On 28 Apr 2014, at 14:31, “John Pring” wrote:
Hi Star

I’m afraid this will not look very impressive after your interview last year, which pledged a ‘radical change’ on disability. Also, I am not looking for your personal views, but the party’s official lines. I think the policy director’s refusal to reply to your email will suggest to readers that your party does not see disabled people as a priority.

You’ve still got until first thing next Monday to turn this around, though.

Best wishes,

John

John Pring
Editor: Disability News Service
Author: Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal
Tel: 020 8446 5900, 07776 206595
Email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com
Website: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Twitter: @johnpringdns

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