Today, Dear Readers (if I have any, that is) I’m going to talk to you about access. I’ve probably mentioned it before, its one topic I’m very experienced in. Mainly I’m going to be talking about Access in London.
A couple of years ago, I went to London for the very first time ever. Then a few days later, I went again. The second time, my destination was Croydon, which is in Essex, which I’d always believed to be a town within the Greater London area, but perhaps I was wrong all those years. It’s probable. Anyway, I definitely went to London once, and that second time I went Via London.
Both experiences have left me wanting Never to go back to London.
Here’s why: Awful Access.
Now, I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the poor access of the public transport in Liverpool is, I can talk until I’m bluer in the face about the access of public transport in the Midlands… But London takes the cake. London, our capital city, filled with tourists every day of the year… Possibly has the worst wheelchair access I have ever experienced.
And that’s including the time I was stuck in Liverpool Town Centre for an hour and a half because not one bus driver in five buses would put the damn ramp down.
Yes, much worse than that.
You see, once you’re in London, whether you know the city outside in or not, things are not always what they seem. London depends on an array of tube stations, bus stops, taxis and bridges to get people where they need to go. Unfortunately, London didn’t get the message that wheelchair users were people too. Maybe three tube stations on the whole tube map claimed to be “wheelchair accessible”. Tube Stations are either adjoined to main train stations, or you access them via street-level stair cases, for lack of a better description. There might be a Tube Station every 50 feet or there abouts, but if you can’t get down those steps (or up steps to the platform, in one case) then you just have to keep on going until you come accross a “level-entry platform”.
The problem is, these “level-entry platforms” still aren’t wheelchair accessible. There is still a massive drop between the Tube doorway and the platform, and the staff didn’t know what to do. One woman claimed she wasn’t meant to touch passengers, a late night security guard told us there was a wheelchair accessible tube down the road (There wasn’t, the station we were at WAS the so called wheelchair accessible station) and refused to be of any help. And then there was the fellow who sent me and my friend to the wrong station with no way of getting anywhere else, because it was the only wheelchair accessible tube/train station for our destination. And it was closed.
Maybe they thought we’d all, as in those of us in wheelchairs, would just like to see the tubes and observe them, not actually go anywhere on them, because I can’t see any logic in naming something as wheelchair accessible when its anything but.
So, OK, the tubes out. There’s other options like taxis.
To be honest, taxis have been the bane of my existence since I was 5 years old. Its a personal grudge, but when desperate times call for desperate measures, one can’t be choosy.
Unless a very expensive London taxi wasn’t in your budget, and you’d already paid so much on the train ticket to get you to your chosen destination. One might suggest that when you’re in a city you don’t know, one has to be prepared for emergencies. We were, but its the principle of the thing.
If I was an average human being, I’d be able to travel on your average public transport. Why should a disabled person pay through the nose for other people’s failings. Don’t we deal with enough rubbish from society?
And then there’s the bus… Now, actually, as far as wheelchair access goes, the London bus I got on to at night, when I was at the end of my tether with public transport, was very good. Automatic ramp, accepted my national bus pass. There was an issue of a nark of a bus driver being very unhelpful to my friend, who needed to buy a ticket, but access wise, I was lucky. Smoothest part of touring London.
My only issue with the buses is that they don’t seem very… Reliable. My guess is that it was only so easy at that point, was because it was gone 11 at night. Earlier in the day and it might have been a very different story.
And that was two different days, with two different friends, to two different destinations. Both riddled with access problems, impending arguments with station managers, redirections and un-anticipated long walks.
London, the capital of Britain. Not really setting an example for the rest of the UK, is it? And I can only imagine what disabled Tourists would think! Never again, not on my life.