Europe Jul 3, 2012
Persons with disabilities have been promised “real changes” by a transport boss after listening to the difficulties and aggression they face on the borough’s buses.
The meeting at Ealing Town Hall was organised by Transport For All, a charity campaigning for accessible transport, and Ealing Centre for Independent Living, which works to improve persons with disabilities lives.
Stephen Golden, head of equality at transport for London, and Onkar Sahota, London assembly member for Ealing and Hillingdon listened to the experiences of persons with disabilities as well as organizations representing them.
Bus companies and drivers serving the borough were invited but ignored the invitation.
Dr Sahota travelled by bus with one of the speakers, Reggie Greaves, who needs a wheelchair, from his home in Northolt to the meeting.
They suspected drivers were on their best behaviour because Mr Greaves had such an official-looking companion, but Dr Sahota said he saw how challenging it was negotiating passengers and deciding whether to challenge people with buggies taking up their spaces. He said he would do all he can to help them and insisted they gave more feedback so bus companies can learn from mistakes.
Fellow wheelchair user Grace Andrews, whose story was covered in the Gazette in May, spoke of the aggression from drivers and some passengers just for trying to board or leave a bus. The mother of three said her young children have been shouted at on board when they complained a driver had not stopped. And even been driven away from her when one forgot to put out the ramp for their mother.
Mike Theobald, who is deaf and unable to hear announcements, told how a bus screeched to a halt when the driver thought he was ignoring his requests to move back from his cab. He said an effective loop system needed to be installed on buses and drivers needed to face people when they spoke to them.
Karen Robinson, joint chief executive of Age UK Ealing explained the perils for old people, including fearing falling when buses move off before they are able to sit down.
And Matt Gamble of Ealing Mencap’s travel training project, which helps those with learning and other disabilities become independent passengers, said they and TfL have been campaigning for a help card to be given to all drivers which people with communication difficulties can hand to drivers to make it clear they need a little more help.
Mr Golden appealed to disabled people to tell TfL and bus companies about their experiences, good and bad. He said they were making complaining easier and a new satellite system would enable bus bosses to track down drivers responsible.
He said, although buses have limited space and wheelchairs do have priority, they needed to find a way where buggies and wheelchairs can ride together to remove the conflict.
He wants to see embroidered seat covers so passengers can see clearly to leave them clear for disabled people and other improvements.
He added: “I’m optimistic in the next 18 months to two years you will see real changes.”