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Blog - Travelling as a wheelchair user. By Osayuki Igbinoba

February 27, 2020 4:47 PM

Travelling as a wheelchair user can be a traumatic experience. I always have to leave home earlier when I am taking the train to account for any problems that may arise. Just to introduce myself, my name is Osayuki Igbinoba. I am a double amputee above the knee, and I use prosthetic legs. I also use my wheelchair as I am unable to walk long distances. I am a third year pharmacy student at Kingston university.

There have been countless occasions where I have arrived at train stations and no one has turned up with the ramp to assist me off the train, despite the station staff informing the other station that I was onboard the train. I have also booked assistance in advance before and no staff have turned up either. This is very frightening for me because it is very likely I will be stuck on the train as it is about to depart. Sometimes I have to ask passengers to help me find a staff member on the platform to bring the ramp. Other times the member of staff arrives late with the ramp or cannot find the carriage I am in, which shows there is a real lack of communication between train stations. Also, on Southwestern trains there are times where the guards on the train pretend they cannot see me, and do not come off the train to bring the ramp out. This is frustrating for me, as I should not have to speedily propel myself along all the carriages to find where the guard is on the train. All of this causes a lot of anxiety for me when I am travelling on Southeastern and Southwestern trains. This should not be the case and disabled people are being cut off from travelling independently and freely.

Additionally, the lifts at train stations are not always working. This means that I must completely change my route, and either go to a different station or back in the direction I was coming from. Consequently, my journeys take longer which results in me being late to where I am going.

Another issue that I have faced on several occasions is that rail replacement buses are not always wheelchair accessible. Last month, I spent over 1 hour waiting for a taxi at Wimbledon station when the trains were not running. The staff booked a taxi for me and the company kept calling me to say they were unable to allocate me a taxi. The station staff were unwilling to book a local taxi nearby or arrange one at the taxi rank, despite me asking them and explaining the problem. After much persisting, speaking to the supervisor and calling customer services; a taxi in the rank was finally arranged for me to go to Surbiton station. It is not fair that there are no provisions in place for disabled people when there are provisions for able bodied people to travel to their destinations.

There is also the tale of the wheelchair vs buggy on the bus. TfL have removed the space where people could store folded buggies or items near the front of buses. I often find it hard to manoeuvre myself into the small designated space when the buggy is in the way, and there is no space for the buggy to be moved.

Overall more needs to be done for disabled passengers by TfL and the rail companies to ensure we feel safe when travelling. Provisions need to be put in place and enforced. We should be treated with dignity and respect like other passengers regardless of being disabled.