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Let this be the year we make ourselves heard on the railways
DO you believe that disabled people have the right to travel independently and so enjoy life to the full as everyone else can do?
I hope you are nodding agreement but if not I am sorry that my column has not managed to change your attitude towards disabled people. As I so often say “tomorrow it may be you”.
Standards are improving and access is becoming recognised as our right but recognition must be followed by action that ensures that disabled people are not let down.
As Christmas approaches and families get together to celebrate my mind turned to travelling by rail and some of the obstacles that disabled people have to negotiate when using trains.
There is no doubt that the train companies themselves want disabled people to travel; there are numerous web sites encouraging us to do just that.
One site that I found interesting though was “Try a train day”. A member of staff accompanies you on a train journey to help familiarise you with stations and build up your confidence; not available with all companies but worth having a go at in the New Year if it is operating near to Oxford.
I am always up for an adventure; are you? Our local rail network, First Great Western, have at last agreed to allow mobility scooters on board as long as you have applied for and been granted a Scooter pass.
A heated discussion took place at a conference I attended recently and it all centred round the changes Boris Johnson was proposing to make on the London Underground. His proposal was to close all ticket offices and redeploy staff onto the platforms.
All tickets would have to be bought from a machine; no friendly person to help with your queries or concerns, no loop system to help those with hearing loss because all staff would be on the platforms standing at help points. How could you get help then as you are not able to get on the platform without a ticket?.
Deaf people who used the loop system at ticket offices would not be able to hear on a noisy platform, those with learning difficulties could not read instructions, those with visual difficulties pointed out that they were unable to see the key pad and would certainly not be able to find an assistant on a busy platform. So many disabled people at this conference had different problems that they would have to deal with that I began to wonder if Boris and his staff really had a grip on disability.
What was the outcome? Quite exciting as we all gathered outside Westminster Station waving our banners protesting loudly about this.
Come on Oxford don’t sit back and moan and groan when the cuts hit. Raise your heads above the parapet and let 2014 be the year when we make our presence felt.
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