Transport is often an easy topic for a disability column, and trust me I could go on for way longer than 500 words about the transport woes in my life, so today I’ll focus on one night in the life of Niall.
It was this Saturday night just gone. I headed out to the Cowley Road for a birthday party. Where I live in Headington I am blessed by frequent bus services.
To get to the Cowley Road involves a change but to be honest the staff are so lovely, they always get the ramp down, make sure that all is hunky dory and even check that I have put my brakes on before driving off.
This experience is further gilded by the free bus pass, which is perhaps one of the better government initiatives for the disabled.
Anyway, the bus stops, ramp goes down and I nip across St Clements and hop on the next bus up the Cowley Road managing door to door in about 15 minutes with no access issues – pretty impressive.
Move forward a few hours and a few glasses of vino later and I’m heading home. It’s pushing 2am and it’s chilly.
At this time of night my bus pass doesn’t allow me the luxury of free travel so I decide that waiting in the cold for two night buses is no competition for flagging a taxi and being home sooner.
Thank goodness I was in Cowley Road as there were black cabs zooming up and down. Or so I thought until yellow light after yellow light went past me deliberately avoiding eye contact. I guess picking up a wheelchair user is just one hassle too many. You know getting out of the cab, putting the ramp down, getting paid to do the job that you have signed up for. I know taxi drivers are allowed discretion but discrimination is a step too far.
Imagine if a bus turned up and the driver said “nah mate you can wait for the next one as I can’t bothered to get out and put the ramp down”. It would never happen and if it did they’d get the sack.
This experience has happened to me before. In London I had to hide behind a builder’s van whilst he flagged one down, the same in Edinburgh hiding behind a bin whilst someone flagged one down. Eventually one cab stopped and took me home thankfully. I recognise that not all cabbies play this trick, so thanks to those who care.
If you drive a cab or know someone that does make them read this.
I hope that all the drivers that deliberately ignored me on Saturday night do so as well and that they have a think about how they might feel when society decides not to serve them at a supermarket till, or when they turn up to a restaurant where the waiter doesn’t serve them. It’s simple, provide the service you sign up to do.