Divya Babbar, disabled access columnist
Our columnist, Divya Babbar, a local 20 year old wheelchair user, on how accessible transport is often anything but
I'll let you in on a secret – there is no transport method that is completely wheelchair accessible. “What?” I hear you cry, “But our trains have disabled carriages! And what about all that work they've been doing on the Jubilee line since time began?”
Yes, some London Underground stations are accessible by lift - if the lift is not out of order - but about half are not. So, while I can use some stops, several - like South Kensington - are off limits. Often platforms aren’t level to the tube train, so 'mind the gap' becomes 'have fun climbing Everest'. There are portable ramps, but if the staff member who's supposed to meet you with the ramp at your stop is a no show, you can end up missing your station.
However, the tube is not as bad as it gets. For some reason, planes are not yet accessible. This means that I have to be transferred out of my chair and into a passenger seat while my chair goes in the hold with the baggage. A lot of people suffer from flying phobia, but wheelchair users dread having to sit for hours on an aircraft. I bet you’re thinking this is pretty ironic but, trust me, when your booty is accustomed to a luxury gel cushion, it isn’t happy with much else.
The worst part of the experience is what happens when you reach your destination. A couple of times my wheelchair has been forgotten at departure. To a disabled person, this is like arriving at your dream holiday destination and realising you've left your legs at home. Other times my wheelchair has been brought to the gate damaged, which I think is just rude. I'd be arrested if I vandalised your aircraft so, please, treat my chair with some respect.
My only criticism of buses is that the stop button is often situated in an inconvenient position, which means I have to ask a fellow passenger for help as I approach my stop.In this country, taxis are generally great, although not all can accommodate a wheelchair. Paris on the other hand: ha! On a recent trip with a bunch of girlfriends, we waited for an hour and a half for a wheelchair-friendly cab in front of the widely visited Eiffel Tower!
It’s probably safe to say that the transport method that I trust most is my wheelchair. After all, if you want something done, do it yourself. Right?
Read more of Divya's work here