Chris Stapleton, a volunteer at Transport for all, is a wheelchair user who has regularly been refused access to the bus because drivers do not ask for pushchairs to be folded so that he can use the wheelchair space. In this blog, he explain the importance of reporting problems that are encountered in order to changing things.
“The only thing about being disabled which makes me unhappy is the difficulties I face with transport, in particular the dozens of bad encounters I have had with failed bus ramps and malicious or idiotic bus drivers. I use buses a lot, because most of the tube is – in reality – not wheelchair-accessible. The casual attitude of some railway platform staff also makes me unhappy. The majority are prompt and courteous and have an excellent attitude, but too often no one turns up with a ramp to let me get off the train, which leaves me stranded, having to ask passengers to hunt someone down to help. Sometimes I even resort to pressing the emergency alarm, which normally gets results – but this rather dramatic action is not my ideal way of solving the problem.
All this is grossly unfair, and I want change. So whenever anything bad happens, I report it.
I want change on two levels. Firstly, I want the organisations which provide transport to change: I want them to be far more conscientious and proactive about accessibility, and where they have good procedures already defined, I want them to ensure that these procedures are strictly adhered to.
Secondly, I want individuals to change. For example I want individual bus drivers to be held to account for their bad behaviour, to understand that they must follow the procedures laid down for them, and to suffer disciplinary measures if they fall short of what is required.
I want this not just for me, for my own convenience: I want it for everyone who needs accessible transport, now and in future. I don’t want future generations to experience the inconvenience and disrespect which I encounter many times each week.
Another reason for reporting bad experiences is to help build up a body of evidence which can be presented to the authorities and to transport providers to demonstrate where they are failing. Without this body of evidence, how can we show that change is necessary? This is a really important reason why you should let Transport for All know about your problems: we can build up this body of evidence, and use it to demonstrate the need for change.
Sometimes the process of reporting problems can be very disheartening. All too often I get a standardised template response, with platitudes such as these:
‘Please accept my sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused…’
‘We aim to provide a reliable service that our passengers can have confidence in…’
‘We expect the very highest standards of service from all our staff…’
‘Drivers receive thorough training to enable them to operate their vehicles effectively. Customer service is central to this training…’
I have started including in my complaints a comment to the effect that I do not want to be sent an apology for what has happened: I want change, permanent change.
I also simply want to be heard, as an individual voice, as someone who will not put up with the annoyances and stresses caused by inadequate accessible transport provision. I will not tolerate these acts of discrimination and exclusion in silence. I will be proud, loud and angry – until things are sorted out and disabled people are no longer excluded from transport options available to everyone else.
To end on a positive note, I believe that change can also be encouraged with positive responses to good behaviour and good practice. With this in mind, if a bus driver has gone to extra trouble to make my journey easier and more comfortable, I always send in a ‘Thank You’ commendation to TfL, highlighting the driver and his or her good behaviour. These commendations end up on the driver’s personnel record. I hope that other drivers will become aware of this, and will improve their attitude and their behaviour, in the hope of receiving similar commendations. Am I being naïve about this? I hope not!“