All aboard should have been the delightful shout heard today, however the more accurate shout would have been “all aboard, except the gentleman in his mobility scooter and his daughter”. Not such a welcoming call. You see, very rarely my wife has a quieter day and work, and is able to take a lunch break. Today was one of those days so she messaged me and said did I fancy meeting her for lunch with our LG after nursery. Since she will be starting full time school in September I thought this was a lovely idea. The only issue was how would we get there?
Yes I have an adapted vehicle and can drive, but some days I know my pain levels are such that my mind and reaction times are affected enough so as to not want to get behind the wheel. Other days driving alone (without someone else who can take over from me should I need it) having taken my medication is not a good idea, so again I have to be sensible and not drive. It is one aspect of independence that cannot be changed as my safety and those of other road users is always paramount in my mind before taking any journey and this is easily accepted. I have firsthand experience of how life can change suddenly, in an instance at the hand or rather car of others and I would never knowingly put anyone else at risk of this myself. It is perhaps why disabled people are so desperate for the improvements to be made to public transport to enable them to still go about independent lives. However we can not rely on public transport.
Today to get to my wife for lunch it was either bus journey’s close to 2 hours meaning we would miss lunch or an 11 minute train journey, with two slight snags, firstly I needed to get on the train on my mobility scooter and secondly I needed to get back to Wymondham via a train also on said mobility scooter. This is the frustration of being disabled and public transport. Firstly everything has to be planned the nth degree meaning spontaneous lunches very, very, very rarely happen. Why? Well in order to catch the said train I had to call the train lines disability services, very polite and very helpful, although despite several back and forth conversations it took over 10 minutes to get confirmation of what I said initially, which was that my scooter is acceptable to be transported on a train. The only downside of this was that because I had not given 24-48 hours notice there was no guarantee that there would be people on the train in Wymondham available to get me on, off in Norwich and the return journey that would have to be via Attleborough as there is no access to platform 2 in Wymondham.
It is perhaps not so much a case of being on a train to nowhere and more a case of being unable to get on a train anywhere. This isn’t a grumble at the services which are provided as when they are booked they generally work well. It is more a frustrated plea that people will think beyond what they can do on a whim and more a case of asking you all to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and start to question what it is disabled people are asking for. To some it is expensive, money wasted, not a necessity and any number of other excuses I hear, to disabled people it is our lives. No last minute trips locally, last minute holiday deals not a chance, simple cinema trips require phone calls and whilst there are improvements being made these are not always done with a full understanding. I ask you all to engage with people, speak to people and see what it is people really need, and what would be an added bonus. There are many stories of people stranded on tarmac, soiling themselves on trains and so on, these are not norm but they do occur even when every effort has been made to book assistance. No imagine your boss calls you in for a last minute meeting, or asks you to travel to a conference in place of someone who is sick, or simply your wife wants to meet you for a surprise lunch and never being able to achieve those things. Would be frustrating wouldn’t it?