Welcome to The Platform, the blog from Transport for All putting a spotlight on disabled campaigners in the world of transport and accessibility. On The Platform you will find stories written by our members about their campaigns, and their lived experiences of using transport and streets as a disabled person.
Today’s post comes from Marie who explains how barriers to transport can also be barriers to essential medical care. This post also coincides with Disability History Month, and Marie reflects on the importance of sharing our experiences, and ways to get involved with Transport for All’s own History Project.
In February 2021 I had to delay getting my first covid vaccination because a lack of pedestrian infrastructure around the vaccine centre and a lack of accessible taxis meant I could not independently access the vaccine centre. I am unable to fold and lift my wheelchair, so I had to delay my vaccine until an appointment that fitted around my husband’s full-time job was available. As a clinically vulnerable person, having my access to a potentially lifesaving vaccine delayed for lack of a pavement or accessible vehicle was extremely frustrating.
So why am I telling you this? Well, November 16th 2022 – December 16th 2022 sees UK Disability History Month (UKDHM) return for its thirteenth year. The month, which deliberately coincides with important awareness days such as International Day of People With Disabilities, World AIDS Day, and International Human Rights Day, aims to “raise awareness of the unequal position of disabled people in society and to advocate [for] disability equality” through the development of “an understanding of the historical roots of inequality”.
Each year the month focuses on a different theme affecting disabled people’s lives; previous themes have included Campaigning, Disability and Art, Access, and Hidden Impairments to name just a few. This year’s theme is Disability, Health, and Wellbeing, an extremely topical theme given the COVID 19 pandemic, the current issues within the NHS, and the ongoing social care crisis. The month will examine the history of how medical model thinking, where an individual is considered to be disabled by their impairment rather than an inaccessible society, has led to institutional barriers and the denial of disabled people’s human rights within the realm of health and social care.
As a member of the Transport for All Disability History Group, which is currently in the early stages of developing Transport for All’s History of Accessible Transport Project, I began thinking about how transport, particularly inaccessible transport, has impacted my ability as a wheelchair user and disabled person to access healthcare. I wish my Covid vaccine story was the only example I have to share. A similar lack of pedestrian infrastructure around a large outpatient clinic in my town has left me waiting longer for physiotherapy services, as I can only safely access the smaller, less frequent satellite clinics. When I wanted to move GP surgery to a location closer to my home, I found myself unable to do so because my powerchair couldn’t manage the steep hill, and there was no bus service that stopped in the nearby vicinity of the practice. Even just recently, in August 2022, I had to delay an important MRI scan because horrific instances of discrimination I have endured on my local railway services means I am too frightened to take the train alone and I now rely on a two-hourly bus service to access my gynaecology care, unless I can be accompanied.
And, sadly, I know my experiences are not unique to me.
This UK Disability History Month, Transport for All wants your stories of how transport impacts your ability to access healthcare, to add to the archive of experiences for the project. It doesn’t matter if your experience is big or small, had a huge impact or was a smaller frustration; it’s important that the archive contains a variety of experiences from a range of voices representative of the whole spectrum of disability. And whilst I have shared my negative experiences here, Transport for All equally want to hear your positive stories of how good, accessible transport has enabled or enhanced your ability to access the healthcare you need. If you have something to share with the project, please send it to email@example.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Transport for All, our members are the heart of what we do. We aim to empower members to speak directly to those with power, and have a meaningful say in how transport services are run. We believe that co-production and involving people who have lived-experienced in planning, monitoring and all stages of the processes from right at the start to the end is the best way to develop and maintain a good transport network for all.
Please get in touch to find out more and get involved.