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Will everyone get to the Games?

Added: 31 May 2012 | Updated: 31 May 2012

In just a few weeks, over half a million disabled people are expected to visit London to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The commitment to access and the investment in the transport system were important parts of the bid that brought the Games to London.

London TravelWatch, the official watchdog representing the interests of transport users in London, recently published the findings of its mystery shopping of the Olympic and Paralympic venue stations. Together with members of Transport for All, they visited 13 of the 14 venues.

“All of the venue stations we visited were step-free between the street and the platform, we are pleased that action is planned prior to Games that will allow step-free access from street to train” said Sharon Grant, Chair of London TravelWatch

“We found the bus journeys were a good experience for our volunteers, staff at National Rail stations assisted us on and off in a professional manner. TfL and the train operators will be providing many additional staff and trained volunteers. We are pleased that TfL will be publicising access details of the stations”

And so in answer to our question ‘Will everyone get to the games?’, yes they will. However, we think there could still be some minor street works before the Games to improve access. We also want to see tactile paving at the top of staircases which is very useful for visually impaired travellers”, concluded Sharon.

Unfortunately, the large number of stations on the rest of the network without stepfree access and the perennial issue of boarding crowded buses means that people’s station or stop of departure may not be accessible and that many disabled people may not find it easy embarking on their journey to the Games.

Read the TravelWatch report Will everyone get to the Games.

The Channel 4 News has been examining transport access for disabled people in a series of reports called No Go Britain. Their latest report, which aired on 29th May, followed a several people and their successes on buses, trains and taxis.

The report features Zara Todd, a wheelchair user from London, who admits to being ‘terrified’ of travelling to the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics, which doesn’t bode well for visitors to the capital. Zara has made around 350 bus trips in the last 6 months. Out of those, there were problems on about 150 of the journeys and on about 50 of them, she wasn’t able to board at all.

As disabled Londoners know all too well, all of London’s buses and taxis may well be technically accessible in terms of equipment (ramps, low floor etc), but we still have to expect broken ramps, drivers unwilling to stop, inaccessible bus stops and a whole host of other excuses on a daily basis.

The report also features a wheelchair user, Louise Hickman taking the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow – the place where many disabled people will begin their journey. Louise easily boarded the train but was unable to alight the train at any station, and after an hour and a half, was left with no choice but to return to Heathrow, despite the many accessible station symbols along that line.
We will have to wait until we find out which stations will be using the manual ramps during the Games, to see in this situation will be improved.

View the latest No Go Britain report

Transport for All welcome the steps that TfL has taken towards making this ‘the most accessible Games ever’. The introduction of manual ramps in particular will open up parts of the Underground to which wheelchair users are currently denied access.

Lianna Etkind, Campaigns Coordinator at Transport for All said, “We call on TfL to ensure that progress towards a truly public transport system continues after the Games. Disabled Londoners deserve a legacy of accessible transport so even after the last medal has been handed out, we are able to get out and about with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.“