9 August 2007
Patrick Horan writes on disability Issues
Patrick Horan is UK National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) trained, holds an MSc in disability management and is Access Officer and Chair of Southwark Disablement Association.
This week I will be giving advice on how to successfully negotiate a bus trip on a Transport for London bus (TfL) for wheelchair users.
But first I would like to pay tribute to the members of DAN (Disabled Action Network), some who are sadly no longer alive to see the sacrifices they made by highlighting the discrimination of not been able to travel on London Transport if you were in a wheelchair.
They did so by chaining themselves to buses and getting arrested so wheelchair users like myself can travel freely across the bus network.
Now that all TfL buses are wheelchair accessible, you will have noticed more and more wheelchairs on board.
Drivers according to TfL training should keep all doors closed and let alighting passengers alight through the middle doors. Then they will extend the ramp, while keeping the front door closed until the wheelchair user is settled in position.
This is all very good in theory but very few drivers abide by it. In reality you will join other passengers in boarding. Very few of the actual ramps are faulty, its normally driver error!
If the ramp fails follow these guidelines (1) make sure they are no obstructions in the way i.e. lamppost, bin or other street furniture, the ramp is very sensitive and any obstruction will cause it to retract. Same when you are exit. (2) Make sure the bus is straight and as close as possible to the footpath. (3) Ask the driver nicely to move the bus a few feet forward and try the ramp again. (4) As a last resort ask the driver nicely to turn off and on the engine, this reboots the ramp and will usually work 90% of the time. If you want to have a successful journey for now at least, until drivers become used to having wheelchair users onboard, I am afraid you will need to help out with advice, remember to speak to the driver nicely.
Wheelchair users for so long were prevented from travelling on buses even after the entire bus fleet became accessible, as some drivers have never actually operated the ramp in a working environment. The more wheelchair users use the network, the more familiar drivers will become in operating the ramp.
Now we come to buggies and prams in the wheelchair space. People with buggies and prams were used to seeing a bus pull up for wheelchair users and the ramp then failing to work or the driver refusing to let a wheelchair user board, giving people with a buggy the wrong impression.
Wheelchair users have priority for that space. If this does not work, then unfortunately you will have to involve the bus driver. Now it's very unlikely, you will be at the bus stop armed with a pen & paper to take down the required information to make a complaint. Everyone has a mobile phone these days, just take down the information as if you were sending a text and save it to draft for future reference.
To help identify the offending driver and bus, there are four very important pieces of information TfL must have. Contact me, at Southwark Disablement Association or Southwark News giving me these four pieces of information (1) route number and fleet number, which can be found on the side of the bus or back window.(2) bus stop name (top of the bus stop) (3) direction of travel (4) time and date and a brief description of what happened. I will then take it up with the Operations Director of TfL. Until the next time may your God go with you.
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