Skip To Navigation Skip To Content
Colour mode:
Home > News > Trailblazers
This article is old and may be out of date


Transport for All

The project manager of the Trailblazers network of...

The project manager of the Trailblazers network of young people with muscular dystrophy, Bobby Ancil, tells Transport for All about the work of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers and a new All-Party Parliamentary Group for young disabled people.

Bobby Ancil takes the uncompromising approach to politicians you would expect of someone guiding a national network of young people in their engagement with the parliamentary process. He has been with the Trailblazers campaign since its inception in July 2008, running the network’s national and regional campaigns and is the driving force behind its political engagement. He argues that politicians must take the time listen to young disabled people to understand the frustrations they face on a day-to-day basis. They should “meet the Trailblazers to understand what these young disabled people think,” he says.

Research into accessibility

Trailblazers was set up as a part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign in response the desire of young people with muscular dystrophy to campaign for fair access to basic services and opportunities. Over the past three years, it has carried out five individual investigations into accessibility, looking at public transport, higher education, leisure facilities, employment and tourism.

The first of these reports, examining public transport, was published in May 2009. “End of the Line” saw Trailblazers taking trips on trains, buses, taxis and even planes to rate the services they received. The report secured national broadcast and newspaper coverage and took the Trailblazers to a launch event in Parliament and attracted the attention of a number of transport providers.

All Party-Parliamentary Group for young disabled people

The political and media attention following the publication of the “End of the Line” and the other four reports gave the Trailblazers a platform for more action. Seizing on this opportunity and support from a number of helpful members of Parliament, including Paul Maynard, Fiona McTaggart and Dave Anderson they set up the All Party-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for young disabled people to take the reports forward.

Ancil explains that the APPG allows young disabled people to hold transport providers to account; “it gives the young people an opportunity to address the organisations that are doing well or not so well”. Giving an example, Ancil describes a visually impaired trailblazer who had requested assistance from Transport for London for her trip to the APPG meeting, but had not been met by underground staff. She was able to make her point directly to the Deputy Managing Director of Transport for London, he explains.

Moreover, the group’s first evidence session on trains and the underground attracted some of the country’s most senior transport workers, including the Managing Director of Southern Railways and the Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Trains.

The second evidence session of the APPG focussed on buses and taxis and again allowed Trailblazers to address transport providers. One taxi company from Birmingham were quizzed about charging extra for ramps and were asked by the Trailblazers to ensure that every one of their employees is aware that there should be no extra charges. The group also heard from the Transport Minister Norman Baker who acknowledged that there are deficiencies in accessibility in parts of the transport network.

The APPG is about more than just an opportunity to engage with transport providers, however. Once the nine evidence sessions have been completed the APPG will take written evidence and produce a report. The hope is to develop something that MPs can use in their parliamentary activity. We want to create “a tool that MPs can take into any meeting they have on accessibility”, Ancil asserts.

Continuing the conversation

The APPG meetings have been a success to date; attracting key transport providers and politicians. But Ancil hopes that these sessions will not be the end of these discussions. He suggests that an ongoing conversation between the Trailblazers and transport providers can improve accessibility for disabled people and help transport providers improve their services: “we have large numbers of people who use their services on a day-to-day basis and they know exactly where the service is doing well and where it is not doing quite so well”.

Let’s hope the transport providers continue to listen to the likes of Bobby Ancil and the Trailblazers.

Visit the Trailblazers website for more information about the project.

A man standing in front of a painted brick wall smiling at the camera. He is holding a cane and is wearing glasses, a black jacket and a grey t-shirt. A man standing in front of a painted brick wall smiling at the camera. He is holding a cane and is wearing glasses, a black jacket and a grey t-shirt.

Support us

We can't do this without your support. Take action, give what you can, or sign up as a member - and join our movement of disabled people fighting for a better future.