Step Free Railway Access: An (EXTRA) 40 Year Wait?!

Recently I was LIVE on BBC Radio 4 (national radio here in the UK) discussing accessibility on trains and the impact a fully accessible rail system would have on me, specifically on my employment prospects. This interview was quite short but got me thinking about the issues I experience as a wheelchair user trying to access trains. With that in mind, I thought I would discuss those issues, and some of the ways things are SUPPOSED to be improving, in this blog post. I know those of you who’ve been following for a while will have seen me discuss these issues in blog posts about specific journeys before in the Travellingsection of the blog, but I thought it would be useful to have these issues compiled into one post.

Firstly, it’s probably best to put this (lack of) accessibility into context, which means STAT TIME! According to a report by Leonard Cheshire,  42% of train stations in England lack step free access. Obviously that’s close to half, which is a frankly ridiculous number. According to the same report, the Government is set to miss its target to make all stations step free by 2030, by 40 years and thus not have the programme complete until 2070. In 2070 I will be 74, which is absurd to think about, I’m only 24 now for pity’s sake! I REFUSE to wait until I am 74 to access the entire rail system in my home country. The worst thing is this is made to seem like it’s not an issue. 40 years is a pretty big deadline miss and there seems to have been very little outrage or coverage, other than from disabled people themselves and charities or groups like Leonard Cheshire.

So, what kind of impact does this inaccessibility have on me? Well, the Leonard Cheshire report focused on the impact on employment, so I guess I’ll focus there too. I’ve had to turn down jobs because I can only use public transport to commute to a job and the closest station to this particular location was inaccessible. Travelling by train to the nearest accessible station and then walking/ using the bus from there then  made the commute undoable. Besides the obvious impact of literally having to reject jobs, there’s also so much extra work and stress that goes into job hunting as a disabled person who needs to commute via rail. First, I have to work out which is the nearest station to that location, then I have to work out if I can actually use that station. THEN I have to ask myself I actually trust the accessibility information, because the accessibility information and the actual accessibility experience can sometimes not match up.

Beyond that, I have to account for the fact that, even where there is accessibility, it’s often only partial accessibility or via certain routes. For example, the station where I used to live in Chippenham is considered accessible, but the accessible entrance side is up a giant hill which, as you can imagine, could be an even bigger accessibility hurdle for those in manual wheelchairs who have to self-propel or be pushed, and those with a variety of other access needs. There is also a requirement (apparently it’s a suggestion but it’s certainly made to seem more like a requirement to me) to prebook travel assistance 24 hours in advance. That means I have no room for spontaneity, no room for late running meetings and all that stuff that’s pretty standard in a job and a life in general.

And inaccessibility doesn’t end once I’m in the station. Even once inside, I don’t have equal access. I have to wait in a particular office for someone to walk me to the platform and put the ramp out, which means I am not independent when accessing the train. I also have to be at the station 20 or 30 minutes before my train in order to be sure of assistance. It’s pretty bold to assume I don’t have things that ‘I’d rather be doing that just sat in a train station waiting room for 20 or 30 minutes for what should be a 5-minute task, are we assuming here that disabled people don’t have lives and other things to do? SOME train companies have trains now with ramps that extend out from the train, but that’s only on SOME train routes with  SOME companies. Independent access to trains shouldn’t be a lottery depending on where you live and which company runs your train lines. Then once I’m on the train there’s the stress of whether someone will be there to disembark me or if I will be abandoned on the train, yelling for assistance and hoping it doesn’t set off again with me still onboard.

There is also the issue of inaccessibility on trains themselves.  There was legislation passed which stated that all trains were to be  accessible by 1st January 2020, but at least 8 companies missed this deadline. Again, accessibility shouldn’t be a lottery depending on where you live and who runs your trains.

I also want to end by saying that, whilst the Leonard Cheshire report focused on the impact a fully accessible rail system could have on employment, It would have a wider impact too. This isn’t solely about employment, because disabled people (and people in general) are not just workers, we have social lives which would be greatly improved by a fully accessible rail system too.

Please support the effort for a fully accessible (or at least fully step free) UK rail system before that ridiculous 2070 predicted deadline.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Silver Linings of 2020

Guess who’s (finally, over a week in) back blogging for 2021?! Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen my New Year’s Eve post. In that caption I talked a little bit about the bright spots and silver linings for me in the mess that was 2020, so I thought I’d  discuss those silver linings in a blog post here too. Don’t get it twisted, this post isn’t me ignoring the fact that 2020 was hell with an extra sprinkle of awful for the majority of the world and the majority of the year.  This is just more of a personal post to hopefully change things up and stop me being in that mindset of “if things are terrible now, they will always be terrible”, reminding myself there is always light in the darkness. To quote Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. So I guess this is me turning on the light when it comes to my view of 2020.

Made It Into National News & Radio

Let’s start with (I think) the most exciting silver lining. I made it into the national news AND radio! Firstly, I was the lead quote and photo on a BBC Business News article where I discussed my struggles finding employment as a disabled person in the midst of the pandemic . Then I was LIVE on BBC Radio 4 speaking about the positive impact that a fully accessible rail system would have on me, and specifically on my ability to find  employment. As I said, these opportunities were really exciting and I feel like these are opportunities I wouldn’t have had the experiences or time to take if I had not made the move to Birmingham and been in lockdown with no reasons to say no to these opportunities. One thing I have taken from this is that I should just take such opportunities because what’s the harm in saying yes?

Moved Into My Own Place

As I eluded to above, I also moved into my own place that was not student accommodation. I actually wrote a blog post of this process detailing my experience of house hunting whilst disabled and the things I had to consider too. Admittedly, making the big step mid pandemic and leaving myself locked down mostly alone in a city I didn’t  really know was not my best idea. But living with my parents throughout lockdown 1 really solidified the fact that I needed my own space, plus I just started thinking “If I don’t make the move now then when will I?”. I would have just kept making excuses to stay where I was.

Now Live In A City I Adore

I now live in Birmingham, a city I love. It feels like home. I feel comfortable here. I didn’t even feel this comfortable in London, which  is weird considering I lived there for 4 years compared to having lived in Birmingham for “only” a year whilst completing my Masters (more on that in a minute). Obviously given the current situation, I have not seen anywhere near as much of the city as I would have liked since I made the big move. But I have plenty of Birmingham content for you to check out whilst we’re in lockdown, and I’m excited to get exploring again when it’s safer.

Masters Degree

Now about that degree. Yup, I now have a first-class MSc degree (aka Distinction) in Cognitive Neuroscience from Aston University.  I actually wrote a whole blog post on my experience as a disabled student completing this Masters degree. I’m not gonna sit here and say it was easy, because it wasn’t, even before the pandemic kicked off. Add to that universities closing, learning becoming remote and then having my exams changed (with my practical exams being dropped completely and all exams going online) PLUS completing my dissertation online with no in person access to my supervisor for feedback. With all of that going on, plus my personal situation with COVID as a high risk person with shielding family, completing my Masters was DIFFICULT. And I’m not saying that as a ‘woe is me’ moment or because I want your pity. I’m just acknowledging it for the difficult situation was and acknowledging the fact that I. DID. IT. and damn that needs celebrating.

Solidified Friendships

This whole situation has helped to form better friendships and become closer to certain people than I would have been without the lockdown and my move. Who am I kidding, this entire section is just a big shoutout to Lizzie, so all hail Queen Lizzie, saviour of my sanity. Lizzie and her two university flatmates were my support bubble when I first moved to Birmingham as someone who lived alone (so they were the only people I was allowed to see) and that really solidified our friendship. Obviously I adore her but I don’t know if we’d have spent this much time together or be as close as we are if wasn’t for my move and the restrictions. So thanks 2020 for one of the loveliest girls I’ve ever met and a new best friend.

Grew The Blog

This was most likely because the lockdown gave me more time to write posts, promote them and engage with the blogging community, but the blog grew more than I could have ever thought possible in 2020! It was viewed in 31 more countries and had 4,649 views from 2,041 visitors compared to 1,464 views from 871 visitors in 2019. I also hit new daily and monthly blog view hits. I also did more blog post contributions and started collaborating with other bloggers on blog posts for my own site, such as my collaborations with Alex at The VI Critic, Hope from The Hope Chronicles, and Artie Carden. These collaborations also lead to friendships beyond blogging, which have kept me going throughout restrictions, such as my friendship with Alex (whose blog you should definitely go check out over at The VI Critic !).

So there are my silver linings for 2020. Do you have any silver linings from the past year that you’d like to share? Perhaps my fellow bloggers have already written their own version of this blog post that they’d like to share?

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Job Hunting as a Disabled Person

As a recent Masters graduate who’s not long moved into her own flat. The next thing on my “being an adult” list is getting a job. So I thought I’d give you a little insight into some of the things I have to consider most when job hunting as a disabled person.

What I Want or am Qualified to Do

I don’t think this part is much different to job hunting as an able-bodied person. As someone with a First-Class Bachelors degree and a Distinction at Masters level (allow me the single brag, I worked my butt off), the qualification part isn’t often a concern. However, I still need my PhD for some of the research roles I want. My problem is that I’d quite like to be a Support Worker in some capacity, at least through my PhD. And I regularly hold back from applying for roles where more personal or physical caring is required because I wonder how I’d be seen at an interview. I wonder if employers will see past my disability and see how I can provide support to another individual whilst also needing accommodations myself. I understand that it may be a health and safety thing, but I know I’d be capable of providing support as long as I was physically and safely able to in some way.

What I Physically Can Do

Ah yes, while we’re here. We best talk physical limitations. Obviously I couldn’t do anything too strenuous or physical (involving lifting or the suchlike), but not because I couldn’t physically do it. More just because it would take me longer and wouldn’t fit into company ideals of getting as much done as possible. I also can’t do anything involving specific hand eye coordination because mine is SHOCKING.

So I’m most likely to be in some form of office role just because of the lack of strenuous physical demands. However, even there I’d need adaptation: An accessible location (i.e. city) to work in, an accessible building to work in, possibly an electronic desk, possibly certain kinds of accessibility software such as speech to text (depending on the role). These are the kind of adaptations I won’t mention until at least interview (unless I know from the job description they’ll be necessary).  This is just so I can fully understand the kind of adaptations I’ll need, to make me as good as possible at the role, before I ask for them.

Whilst we’re discussing what I can’t do in a role, how about we reverse it and think about what I as a disabled person can bring to a role? Adaptability: Lord knows we’re used to adapting to different situations as disabled people facing inaccessibility, and that adaptability comes in handy in an everchanging world. Perseverance: Again, I’m constantly used to working through or around issues as a disabled person, and that resilience and stubbornness to give up on a task will hopefully give me an extra edge when it comes to facing setbacks or difficult tasks in the workplace. But I think the most important thing I can bring is perspective, particularly when it comes to products. Most products are marketed at an able-bodied audience and so the disabled customer doesn’t often come into the conversation. I believe that would change if there was a disabled employee at the table to discuss these kinds of things.

Travel

The other aspect that keeps coming up in my job hunt is travel. Thinking about the length of a commute, and how that’s likely to be longer than the same commute for an able-bodied person. Wondering if a commute is even possible and if the train station near my prospective workplace is  accessible, alongside wondering if the workplace is accessible. THEN there’s the fact that some roles require a full drivers licence (which I am not LEGALLY ALLOWED to possess) without stating why it’s necessary to have a drivers licence. The number of times I’ve found a role I want with a feasible commute, to discover I’m essentially not allowed to commute because the role requires a full drivers licence without an obvious reason why, is INFURIATING.

Interview

One unexpected plus I’ve found is regarding being put forward to the interview stage for a role. On some applications I have seen the option to state that you are a disabled applicant. You then explain a little bit about your disability and adaptations you may need at the interview stage. The application then says that those who meet the main necessary criteria for the role and have identified themselves as disabled will be progressed to an automatic interview under what I believe is called a “Two Ticks” system. I’m not sure how widespread the scheme is as I’ve only seen it on Research Assistant applications at universities I’ve applied to, but I’m certainly intrigued to learn a little more about how the scheme works.

Update: I’ve now learned some more about the Two Ticks scheme. Firstly it’s now called Disability Confident and has 3 tiers. The first two tiers (Committed and Employer) are self assessed as Disability Confident whereas the top tier in the scheme (Leader) has to be assessed as Disability Confident by an external body.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve enjoyed my initial thoughts on job hunting as a disabled person. I hope it shows a need for open mindedness when looking at job applications or designing job descriptions. You may be losing out on the perfect candidate because they’re disabled and you’ve made the role seem inaccessible to them, when in reality it could be accessible with some thought and adaptation. I hope it also shows that disabled people want to do non office-based roles and those roles should be accessible where possible.

No doubt I’ll update this as I continue the job-hunting process.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

House Hunting as a Disabled Person

Back in July, I finally made the big move. Moving out out (not just into student accommodation)into my own flat in Birmingham! As a wheelchair user, there were a fair few considerations I had to make when deciding where to live. So I thought I’d discuss a few of those considerations.

Social Housing vs Private Rent

The first thing for me to consider was whether wanted to live in council/housing association housing or if I wanted to privately rent (of course buying is also technically an option but it wasn’t financially an option for me. This consideration felt like balancing the fact that council housing could be the more accessible option, with a lift, ramp or wet room more likely, against the “stigma” that I perceived around council housing, as some kind of government handout and feeding into the “scrounger” narrative around disabled people. For me, I didn’t want to be seen as disabled or in receipt of “special” housing, so I chose to privately rent. An odd thing to do, making a decision to avoid feeding into a narrative that I KNOW is false anyway, but that’s just how much these stigmas and narratives can affect disabled people. Anywayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy I’m getting side-tracked.

Location

Next up was location. Obviously most people choose to live somewhere because of school, work or family. Similarly, I chose to live in Birmingham because that’s where I was, pre pandemic, completing my Masters degree and is where I hope to continue onto a PhD. Then it came to choosing where in Birmingham to live. I chose the centre since I was aware that I’d need to be in the centre for university and most things anyway and that public transport from the outer boroughs of Birmingham could potentially be inaccessible. Of course I had to consider the effect that had in possibly increasing the price.

Price

As I was saying, the price. I knew that, for a section of time at least, I’d be surviving purely off my disability benefits (Personal Independence Payment) which those in the disability community in the UK will know, REALLY isn’t much. I was lucky in that I had savings I could use and could pay some rent in advance to give me some time to get on my feet with a job. However, the limited income I have as a disabled person certainly impacted what I could afford.

House Type

Then there was choosing what kind of building I wanted to live in, whether that was a house, flat or bungalow. I decided to go with either a flat or a bungalow as both of those would be on one level which made more sense for me as a wheelchair user, rather than having to navigate stairs in a house.

 Access Needs

And of course there were my specific access needs to think about within the flat or flat building. I ideally wanted a ground floor flat as that would be easier than having to rely on a lift which could have broken down at any point. The biggest area of contention was the bathroom as that is where I need the most adaptations. There’s always debate about a bathroom with a bath or one with a shower, and IDEALLY I would have liked a bathroom with a roll in shower or wet room, but they’re practically unheard of in private renting, so I ended up with a shower over the bath. And this is where the idea of compromise as a disabled person comes in, what do we class as an acceptable level of accessibility? What is the sort of situation we can “make work” with accessibility aids? In my case I made the shower over the bath situation work with a suction grab rail and a new shower seat (set up seen in the picture below).

A black and white image of a bath which contains a bath seat with 4 horizon slats. There is a grab rail positioned on the wall directly behind the seat. It is positioned on the wall on a diagonal slant. The bath tap is in view on the far bottom left of the photo

Door Dimensions

Aaaaaaaaaah door dimensions, the biggest bane of this entire process. As a wheelchair user I need to know door dimensions so I know whether or not my chair can fit in, because obviously if not the flat is a no go. It was ridiculous how many times I asked for these dimensions to get the response of “standard door dimensions” and then be told someone would take measurements and get back to me when I asked for specific numbers. This kind of information should be gathered as standard when listing a property and then made available on the website or any listing AS STANDARD.

Extended Process

House hunting as a disabled person is also an extended process compared to how I assume it would be for an able-bodied person. I can’t just see a property I like and make a bid. I have to see something, make enquiries and then wait. I have to wait on non-negotiable aspects like door dimensions, things I shouldn’t HAVE to wait on. And the likelihood is, by the time I have the information I need, an able-bodied person has submitted a bid for the flat I want and had it accepted.

Pandemic

Oh and THEN you add into the mix that I made the smart choice of deciding to make this big life move IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. That meant that in person viewings were not an option, something that is kind of key as a wheelchair user to make sure my chair ACTUALLY fits in the place I just paid for. This meant that even though I  had the door dimensions I  didn’t know if my wheelchair fitted into my  new flat until I’d officially moved in, which was anxiety inducing with a capital A and a capital. Add to that the fact that, as someone with cerebral palsy, I’m considered high risk for COVID 19 and as such had been limiting my social contact. Limiting social contact is obviously difficult to do when you’re moving and need to go into an office to sign papers. Overall the pandemic added another layer of difficult to an already complicated situation.

The Perfect Accessible House and House Hunt

With all this talk of the many considerations when house hunting as a disabled person you’re probably saying: So tell us what the perfect accessible house and house hunt would be then! Well the perfect accessible house depends on the individual but for me it’s: A flat (which I have) on the ground floor (which it is) in the centre of a big city (which it is) with a wet room bathroom (which it does not have)

As for making the house hunt accessible, that’s pretty simple from my experience: PUT. ACCESSIBILITY. INFORMATION. ON. THE. LISTINGS. SO I CAN ACCESS ALL THE INFORMATION I NEED TO MAKE A DECISION ABOUT A PROPERTY LIKE EVERY. BODY. ELSE. oh was I yelling there? oops sorry about that.

And after all those considerations, I finally have my own flat in Birmingham to call mine all mine! I hope you enjoyed this insight into house hunting as a disabled wheelchair user in a pandemic.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Why I’m Proud to be Disabled

In a (very belated) nod to Disability Pride Month, which was back in July, I thought I’d do a little piece on why I’m proud to be disabled!

Community

I think the biggest reason I’m proud to be disabled is the disabled community. We’re strong. loud and proud about being disabled, fighting for each other and for change. In finding the disabled community, in real life and in the online world through social media and blogging, I feel like I’ve found my people. The ones I can rant to about ableism or inaccessibility without feeling like I’m complaining or ungrateful (the way I’m sometimes made to seem by the rest of society). When I look at some of the work that’s happening within the disabled community to fight ableism and inaccessibility, it gives me hope for a more accessible and equal future for disabled people.

What It’s Taught Me About Me

Being disabled has also taught me a lot about myself, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t shaped me as a person. Being disabled given me perseverance to work at overcoming barriers (the literal and structural ones which are VERY obvious when you’re disabled) and the single-minded focus to not let the way society is set up get in the way of me achieving what I want to achieve. I also believe that being disabled is the basis for pretty much all of my problem-solving skills, I’m constantly having to find ways around problems (read: inaccessibility) as a disabled person, and particularly as a disabled person. Being disabled has also given me a wider view of disability. I mean that both in terms of seeing more accessibility adaptations in the world, and more variety in adaptations, than I probably would if I wasn’t disabled. But I also mean it in terms of seeing disability positively for the strength it can be and adaptability it can bring, as opposed to seeing it as the pity party or horrible, pitiful existence that it can be viewed as by the rest of society sometimes.

What’s It’s Taught Me About People

I’ve also learned a lot about people and society in general. Particularly since being active in “advocacy” and the disabled community, you realise that some of the things people say are entirely ridiculous, some of the sentences and questions that come out of peoples’ mouths on a daily basis when they see me in my chair and my only response  has to be “excuse me?!”. It also makes you realise that a lot of the misconceptions and biases about disabled people go deeper than you’d think, a lot of the actions or words seen as “helpful” or “compliments” really aren’t and people say or do a lot of stuff without realising how unhelpful and potentially hurtful they can be. I hate to be a Debbie downer here but being disabled really can show you the darker, more upsetting side of society and the way people think.

Opportunities

Nowwwwwww back to the positives. Being disabled has given me so many opportunities that I don’t think I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I highly doubt I would have started this blog if I didn’t have my life as a disabled person as the topic to focus on. And this blog has of course led onto other opportunities including being featured in national media. The opportunity to have legs that are fully functional and allow me to walk unaided? That ship sailed long ago, but so many opportunities have come along BECAUSE that whole “walking unaided” thing didn’t happen.

Who I Am

Mostly I’m proud to be disabled because it’s who I am, and I can’t help but be proud of my own existence. I’ve been disabled since birth; I know no other life than the one I’m currently living. I think that confuses people a fair bit too, when they ask, “if you could take a pill that would make you able bodied would you?” No? I don’t know how to live that life, I know how to live this disabled life, and I feel like I’m quite good at it, so I’ll stick to this life thanks

Bonuses

Then there are of course the little bonuses. Things like queue jumping and barely having to wait in a queue ever. Or getting to ride around on a fancy set of wheels that everyone always says they want. Or having my own personal dancefloor when I’m the only one on the wheelchair accessible platform at gigs. Or the free carer tickets for gigs which essentially mean I get a  half price ticket in comparison to everyone else (we LOVE a bargain over here at InvincibleWomanOnWheels).

So, those are the reasons I am proud to be disabled. I hope my fellow disabled people had a great July (as much as can be expected in the current situation) as Disability Pride Month and continue to have a great rest of the year!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

How To Be Empowered Whilst Disabled: Our Stories of Hope and Invincibility (A Collaboration Between InvincibleWomanOnWheels and The Hope Chronicles)

I’m delighted to have the lovely Hope of The Hope Chronicles collaborating with me on this blog. We both thought we’d give you a little insight into us and our blogs, so there’s a little Frequently Asked Questions section for both of us and a little more of what we want to achieve with our blogs. Enjoy!

Emma (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

Name: Emma, Em, Ems, The Invincible Woman On Wheels

Age: 23

Condition: Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia

Location: Chippenham/Birmingham – based in Birmingham for University

What’s the reason/message behind the blog?

To give a realistic view of life with a disability. Disability isn’t all pity and sadness, but let’s be real, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows either.

 What is the story behind the blog name and social media handles?

The idea essentially began on the Sicily trip which is the first post on here. My travelling companions and I managed to work around and overcome many challenges that we faced on this trip (both accessibility-based and otherwise). This led to us calling ourselves the Invincible Women throughout the trip and beyond. Whilst on that trip those friends encouraged me to start this blog. When thinking of a blog name, it only felt right to take inspiration from the trio on that trip as a sort of homage to where it all started. That is Invincible Woman On Wheels as you know it.

Any advice for other disabled bloggers?

I think my biggest slice of advice would be to write about what you know from the viewpoint of your condition. By that I mean write about your experiences and don’t try and write about a topic if you don’t think you have the right knowledge, if you think you should be writing about it, or if it’s the “trendy” topic. I’d rather see “I don’t know about X” in a blog post than someone who’s trying to pool research without any first-hand experience. My other advice is to be honest, particularly if you’re writing access reviews like I do. Venues may not like it too much if a review paints them in a negative light, but if you’re trying to give good access information to fellow disabled people, an honest, accurate review is better than a sweet one.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked?
Someone I’d barely spoken to once asked me “So how do you have sex?” and I JUST DON’T ASK THAT. There are 3 questions/comments here: a. Would you ask an able-bodied person that?!; b. Why does that question even enter your head as the first one to ask me?!; and c. That’s literally not anyone’s business unless we’re dating.

What does your disability mean for your life and what is the hardest part of it?

The biggest impact of my disability is that I cannot walk and am a wheelchair user. Some of the probably less obvious issues are things like fine motor control issues which can making using scissors and other actions that need small precise motions more difficult. I think the hardest part about my disability isn’t actually the condition, but more realising that society isn’t made to accommodate me or consider the fact I exist at all. I mean that both in terms of physical inaccessibility and in terms of social protocol Every system is more difficult to navigate when you’re disabled.

What does a typical day look like for you?

This depends a fair bit on whether I’m at university or at home, so I’ll keep it vaguer instead of being too specific to either setting. I’ll start with breakfast and my all-important coffee around 8am. Then, during the daytime, I’ll deal with what I refer to as “life stuff,” i.e. the stuff to do with being an adult and not related to my blogging side hustle. As a rule, that meant preparing for and attending the lectures and seminars for my master’s  degree and planning or completing assignments. However, more recently during the pandemic, (in lockdown and with no university lectures) it’s meant working on my application for a PhD, job hunting, and house hunting. Once I’ve done some of that stuff, I’ll have some dinner before moving onto blogging tasks (i.e. planning, writing, and promoting blog posts). My evenings, if I allow myself a proper evening, consist of watching MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or a TV series if there is an interesting one shown that evening.

What interests you when you aren’t managing your disability?

I’m the biggest lover of music and specifically live concerts. I also love watching MMA, either on the TV or live in person. I even have a section on my blog about travelling to MMA shows and another on my favourite MMA promotion Cage Warriors.

Do you have any desire to write beyond the blog? If so, what, where or how? 

I’d like to do a little more activism through my writing and be part of wider society, developing more understanding of what true life with a disability is as opposed to the depictions we see on TV and in films. I think the best way to do that kind of work is writing experiential pieces about various aspects of life with a disability for  magazines and/or news outlets, maybe like the interview I did with The Guardian on what it’s like to attend university as a disabled student. With that being said, I do have a contact page if any magazines or news outlets do want to get in contact about articles or interviews from me on various aspects of life with a disability.

Now over to Hope to tell you a little bit about herself!

Hope (The Hope Chronicles)

Name: Hope, Hope Osborn, Y. Hope Osborn

Age: 43

Condition:  Combo–Severe, Recurrent, Major Depressive Disorder, Complex-PTSD, general anxiety, Osteoporosis that has caused me to break or fracture bones for 6 years in a row now, with my 5th surgery  June of this year, Endometriosis, Hypothyroidism, Fibromyalgia, Mild Carpal Tunnel, herniated disc C6C7

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

What’s the reason/message behind the blog?

To raise awareness of child abuse, trauma, mental illness, social justice. Also, though I am aware of these things, I hope to remind people that there is beauty, victory, and freedom amid hardship, such as in my photography art.

What is the story behind the blog name and social media handles?

I started the blog back in 2012 before I had to stop working a regular job, before now earning my MA in Professional and Technical Writing in December, before building a photography and writing freelance business was in mind, and before I was as open as I am now about my trauma, so it started out on a variety of different topics than I now cover. It still stands that The Hope Chronicles is predominantly about just living life in general and the various encounters of my life that I want people to find hope in.

My social media handle of YHopeOsborn is about creating space in the world for my writing and photography and building a freelance business in those realms in order to be productive while working around health appointments, surgeries, treatments, etc.

https://twitter.com/YHopeOsborn

https://www.facebook.com/YHopeOsbornMedia

http://LinkedIn.com/in/yhopeosborn

https://medium.com/@YHopeOsborn

https://www.artworkarchive.com/profile/yhopeosborn

https://www.saatchiart.com/yhopeosborn

Any advice for other disabled bloggers?

I have to agree with The Invincible Woman on Wheels or Em in writing about what you know and reviewing for generative feedback, meaning that which enables the writer to be a better writer.

As she said, just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean it has to enter into the picture of your blog. One thing I try to do in my life is give myself avenues for getting away from my disability as much as possible, such as my photography art, gardening, and pets, Isobel, the kitten, and pair a parakeets, Widget and Whimsy. I just  work at making each easier in some way so that I don’t feel confined by disability. I enjoy the bounty of color and creation my garden provides year around, the purr and cuddle of my kitten, the happy chirping and talking with my parakeets, and finding great photo Captures.

Also, don’t ever be ashamed of being disabled. I must remind myself of this, particularly during the frequent times in surgery and in boots and crutches or walker (even wheelchair for 6 weeks a couple years back). I don’t appear to others as if I am disabled enough to not work a regular job. I feel like I need to explain myself, and I don’t. You don’t, whatever your situation in life. It is your own experience. You know the truth of it for yourself.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked?

When I was at my last job and I started sleeping in the morning without waking to multiple alarms and calls by friends and anything else I could think of, I was sincerely apologetic and ashamed of being late for work, though I always made up the time some way. In those few months of that I worked with doctors, including a sleep study, trying to figure out what was going on.

As I was trying to explain to my employers all this with regular updates, they totally ignored any reference to it being a health problem, and one of the times I was late, I was called into the office manager’s office where she proceeded to say, “You know if you would just call and tell us you were going to be late, we’d understand.” Maybe not the oddest. Maybe unanswerable as a stupid statement, but I still responded, “If I could call you to tell you I’d be late, I would be awake and wouldn’t have to call to tell you I was going to be late, because I’d be here.” I was fired for those ongoing offenses caused by my health and a month later the problem cleared up without explanation or any more treatment than I already received.

However, I think it was God’s way of getting me out of what turned out to be a bad work environment and out of general work, because I would have been too afraid to let go of even a crappy job to spend my time focusing more on my degree, writing, photography, and health.

Which of your conditions do you consider the most impactful on your day?

The most obvious that comes to mind is the yearly broken bones with surgeries along with surgeries outside of the osteoporosis, but the answer is much more subtle even to me. The Depression and Complex-PTSD or just the traumatic childhood explains not only my constant stress and self- and relationship- destructive behavioral actions and mental thinking, but, according to studies, child abuse survivors suffer more physical ailments. A lot of my health problems are genetic, but I don’t see these in the family, or they are just odd for my age or situation, such as the osteoporosis without cause, and probably are a result of childhood trauma, and adult trauma for that matter. If you count all that together that covers most of my problems and I would say the Complex-PTSD is the condition. I battle the flashbacks, dreams, disassociation of it and trying to tame it through counselling, treatments, and psychiatric drugs, alongside all my health-related meds every day.

The fact is that all through my developmental stages of life I was traumatized in multiple ways, so bad neural pathways were laid down and good ones were short-circuited. I’ll be years in therapy working on cleaning up that mess, particularly since I have only in the last few years had a really good counsellor and psychiatrist.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day is that it isn’t ever typical. My alarm is set to wake me at 5:30, so I can get up long enough to care for my cat and take my morning pills. Then, if all goes well, I lie back down and sleep for another hour or hour and a half, waking naturally and not feeling the yuck of what sits with me from night. I spend an hour or so “catching up on the phone,” I call it, because I am on my phone, responding to or sending emails or texts, working on social media, seeing how much REM or deep sleep I managed that night to explain whatever state I am in and watching for problems that tell me how well the ketamine treatments for my depression are going and to explain whatever state I wake in, updating all the apps that need attention, and calling doctors’ offices when necessary.

Then if I am not crippled with a fracture like now or down with and quarantined in flu-like illness (such as twice in a row during the pandemic) or something else doesn’t absolutely preclude it, I try to either spend 30 minutes doing a part of cleaning the place, exercising at the gym, or tending my year around patio garden. In and out of all this time I try to keep up a schedule well in advance of my current day because it helps motivate me to do the next thing, particularly on difficult health days.

If there is anything that is work intensive, like photo shoots (not often), writing, studying (such as for my MA, watching or doing workshops, or taking a library course), figuring out business or other writing or art possibilities,  working on finances, or Wednesday’s order of Kroger click list, for example, it has to be done in the morning or early afternoon during my peak energy and focus time.

The first half of my afternoon, I try to plan socializing, often with food, drink, or house prep and any kind of appointment or treatment, run errands, do chores. If I have a heavy day, I take about a 45-minute lunch break to heat up something quick from my once a week cooking or from the store and debrief by watching good clean comedians, because laughing is part of the ton of medications taken with lunch. Sundays also at that time I divide out all my pills to take 5:30am, noon, 5pm, 8pm, and 9:30 and set aside pill bottles I need to get refills by the end of the week for the following week.

By noon even now at a slower paced morning, I am already getting very tired. I need to lie down and not push myself because when I inevitably do, I create pain and sickness and exhaustion that affects the already difficult time of going to sleep by 10 even without going anywhere or communicating by any means after 6 though that is often when other people do things. I miss gatherings and special events all the time because I can’t push it or mess up my whole going to sleep process, which then dominoes into diminishing productivity or well-being the next day.

So by 2pm or 3pm, I recline on the sofa and work on photo processing; which I found I can do in my off time, though it is tiring and too easily captivating; and/or spending time with my cat and talking some more with my social parakeets. I also spend time arranging things or catching up via text or email or working on schedule-based events and communications of the day.

5pm I shut all the blinds and curtains, turn off most of the lights, take a shower, get in my pyjamas, unless I needed to in the morning, take medicine, care for the cat, and spend the rest of the evening until about 10pm bedtime. I sleep on the sofa using a quilt I made when I was a teenager to cocoon in because, since the bedroom was a problem with my father growing up, my bedroom is where I struggle most to sleep, have my “grey dreams,” have PTSD experiences and feelings, which in turn allows my head to go all sorts of negative ways just perpetuating the insomnia. Because I am so hard to sedate and because of medications I wake up at least once around midnight, needing a carb snack to fall back asleep. I hate that and other awakenings because it makes me feel yucky then and sometimes into the next day when ability is determined according to whim and how the previous day or that night went. Sometimes I must make myself take a sick day if I have had a really bad night or previous day.

There are always the limitations and intrusive problems and endless medical appointments, treatments, and surgeries and a good but hard counselling session once a week. I disassociate a lot. A lot of my disassociations I didn’t realize until thinking through issues or events with my therapist. Any getting up and down from the ground is painful enough to make it difficult to get up at all with right now yet another stress fracture in my left leg because I have osteoporosis for no medical reason that has caused me to have broken bones and surgeries for the 6th year running. Then every day there is pushing against the crowding health issues, trying to ignore them to have a life apart from health.

What interests you when you aren’t managing your disability?

I do enjoy listening to my playlists, Cur. Favs, Easy Groovin’, Jammin’ and Exercise Jam in the mornings to help push me along. The Cur Favs are anytime, and Easy Groovin’ is for company or afternoons. I love my year around garden, with the spring and fall planting allowing me my Disneyland experience of going to the garden center to partly fill an order I planned and partly figure out the palette from what is available that year. I used to read the last two hours of every day (I mean I read at least that much every day since I was a kid), but now not so much because for some reason I got bored of it, I think at least in part because I read through all the good mystery genre at least once. After all these years, I just lost interest, which is bad for me as a writer for by reading we grow our vocabulary, perspective, concepts, etc. I need to read the long list of nonfiction I gathered from my professors.

Additionally, I am a photographer artist. At least once a month except when I am laid up with surgery as just now, I go out on photo shoots looking for great Captures. I may go downtown and photograph historic buildings from all sorts of perspectives or go to a park with a view and photograph the landscape or take photographs from the flowers in my own garden. I process them like a painter adding depth to bring out a cornice or color to bring forward a whole building or a bump to add dimension to a flat floral photograph. I win awards in competitions and have shown in galleries here in Little Rock, Arkansas, in Portland, OR; and online at Fusion Art in an artist solo spotlight.

I work on getting my photographs and written works published with some small success so far. You can find my work here at artworkarchive.com/profile/yhopeosborn and can contact me directly yhosborn@gmail.com for any prints or canvases you may want. I have just set up sales on Saatchi Art.

Do you have any desire to write beyond the blog? If so what, where, or how?

I have considered writing my memoir, but I only have some stories and a partial manuscript. I write creative nonfiction and for school write rhetorical analyses among other things, such as writing code for websites in an upcoming class that is one of two classes that will finish out my MA in Professional and Technical Writing with a Creative Nonfiction emphasis, preparing me for grant writing, legal writing, whitepapers, research, and a variety of other areas and software to work alongside my photography as a freelance writer, editor, artist, and designer.

***

I hope you learned a little about us both

Stay Invincible! And live a life of Hope!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Hope (The Hope Chronicles)

Hidden Aspects of Travelling with a Disability (Collaboration with Alex Ramzan from The VI Critic)

FINALLY, a new blog post! This one’s on the hidden aspect of travelling with a disability from my viewpoint as a wheelchair user. And even more excitingly, it’s a collaboration with Alex Ramzan from The VI Critic, check out his post on travelling with a disability as a visually impaired person.

It’s Time Consuming

The first thing is that travelling as a wheelchair user is waaaaaaay more time consuming. And it’s time consuming in 2 ways, both before a trip and on the day of the trip. Before a trip, there’s a bunch of hoops to jump through, firstly, I have to check if the stations I want to travel through are wheelchair accessible, then I have to check if the trains I want to travel on are wheelchair accessible (because THAT’S not always a thing) then I can book my train tickets, then I have book assistance through a phone call with the train company I’m travelling with, THEN I’m finally set to travel.

On the day, I have to turn up AT LEAST 20 minutes before my train and wait in an assistance lounge, then I have to wait to be taken to train by a staff member, then I have to wait for a ramp to enable me to get on the train, then I have to sit on the train for however long, then I have to get to the other end and wait for another ramp to appear to enable me to get off the train. You see all that waiting? That’s TIME.

It’s Exhausting

Travelling as a wheelchair user is also exhausting. See point 1 about travel being time consuming, travel as a wheelchair user takes so much more time than it does as a non-disabled person, there’s a lot more hoops to jump through like I talked about above. And anything that takes more time also takes more energy. And so, travel as a disabled person takes so much more time and energy which makes it entirely EXHAUSTING.

I Travel Before I Travel

Another thing I’ve found is that I take the trip in my head before I take it in reality. There are a lot of “what ifs” when travelling as a wheelchair user: What if the lift at a train or tube station breaks down? What if the assistance doesn’t turn up to get me off the train or tube? What if I’m on the bus in London and the automatic ramp breaks and I can’t get off the bus? What if there is luggage in the wheelchair space on a train and I have to make an issue to get it moved?  I’m one of those people that focuses on the “what ifs”, but I feel like disability, and specifically travelling with a disability,  intensifies that, there’s a lot of extra “what ifs” that disabled people have to consider and find solutions for. So, I’m always taking a trip prior to actually going, because I’m constantly coming up with the “what ifs” and figuring out solutions before they happen so I don’t meet a situation where I’m stressed and lost on what to do next. And to draw back to point 2, that feeling and situation is FLIPPING EXHAUSTING!

It Makes Me Wary of People

I’ve also become very wary of people through my travels as a wheelchair user. I’m often on edge about how other people will react to me as a wheelchair user on public transport. Will they try to  “help” me and end up potentially doing more harm? Will they offer to carry my electric wheelchair off the train if the assistance doesn’t turn up? (Don’t do that it. It’s too heavy you’ll just hurt yourself and potentially break it), will they try and push my electric wheelchair (Don’t do that either, it won’t move and you’ll potentially break it) Or will people make accessibility issues seem like my fault? ( (Like asking “did you book?” when assistance doesn’t turn up to get me off a train). I’ve just become very wary of people and am much more likely to see the issues they may give me rather than the good they’ll do. And I’d really rather it not be that way.

Knowing the System like the Back of my Hand isn’t Cute, it’s a Necessity

I have also found that I almost HAVE to know everything  about accessibility when I travel, I have to know which are the accessible tube stations, which are the accessible train stations and how to get around in between stations if I cannot go directly to my destination using an accessible station, particularly when travelling across London.  I feel like I have to be like that because either a) no one else fully knows about accessibility enough and b) if they do, I’ve had enough wrong information about accessibility from other people that I’m not ever fully confident in others’ accessibility knowledge, and I’d rather not end up somewhere inaccessible.

So those are the hidden aspects of travelling with a disability, specifically from my viewpoint as a wheelchair user. Be sure to check out Alex’s post for his viewpoint on this issue as a visually impaired person.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

Lockdown, COVID – 19 and Me: How this pandemic has the InvincibleWomanOnWheels feeling a little less invincible

It was sort of inevitable that I’d be writing about COVID – 19 and the lockdown, let’s face it it’s all anyone can think about right now. So here’s my take on COVID – 19, lockdown and how it’s affected my life.

So let’s start with the practical bits: The events I’d planned to attend have now been cancelled or postponed (fingers crossed this thing eases by October so the rescheduled Cage Warrior 114 card can go ahead and we can celebrate mine and my mum’s birthdays at the same time). My university is now closed with all lectures and exams online AND I’ve left Birmingham and moved back to the family home for the foreseeable future. While this might be a bit of an annoyance as I’m used to my own space and schedule having lived on my own for most of the last 5 years now, but I know it was the right decision. I’m 90% an introvert so staying inside is something I can do pretty easily by choice; I mean I spend most Saturday nights watching MMA by myself rather than clubbing or at a bar. But of course there is no choice in this situation and THAT’S the bit that’s going to be a struggle. Those of you who regularly read this blog will know I spend what feels like half my life on a train, but that isn’t possible right now, so the wanderlust is building up a fair bit right row. So I guess it’s just time to stockpile wanderlust in this lockdown and use it all up when I can.

Now on to the more specific bits: What does COVID – 19 mean for me in terms of my disability? Well I have cerebral palsy which according to the list below would make me somewhat high risk for the virus (but not shielding level high risk) and vulnerable which meant I should stay inside as much as possible. It didn’t specify if it was a specific type of cerebral palsy that would make people vulnerable but I chose not to take the risk and begin isolating/quarantining/whatever the appropriate word is. I have to admit that that scared me a fair bit. I’d never seen my disability as something that made me vulnerable or significantly affected my life before, it was just sort of this thing that existed as part of my life and meant I got a cool set of wheels. But seeing my condition on that list and knowing what that said about the effect this virus could have on me was a reminder that I wasn’t entirely invincible.

COVID 19

The really REALLY scary part about this is not the way it is impacting me, but the way it’s impacting my family. My mum’s autoimmune disorder means she’s at the highest risk if she gets COVID – 19 and has to shield for 12 weeks. I’d known it was coming after hearing that those with autoimmune conditions were high risk and knowing the condition she has, but hearing that she’d actually got the text about shielding still came as some weird kind of shock even though I knew it was coming. We don’t always get on 100%, we’re too similar for our own good and we both drive each other up the wall more often than not, but god do I love that woman. The thought of her getting this virus and potentially losing her, and losing both my parents in the space of 2 years, terrifies the entire life out of me. The reminder that the woman who made me invincible may not actually be as invincible herself as I always thought she was is an eye opening wake up call that I wasn’t expecting to affect me in quite the way it has.

PLEASE stay inside and observe social distancing so I can be close to my mum again and her and other high risk people (and everyone else) can safely leave their house at some point this year.

Stay Safe, Stay Inside, Wash Your Hands and Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

InvincibleWomanOnWheels Frequently Asked Questions/ Get to Know Me and Q & A

Realised I’d never actually done a Get to Know Me post on the blog , so I combined that with a few questions from my social media followers and blog readers to create this combined Frequently Asked Questions / Q & A for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions/ Get to Know Me

Name: Emma, Em, Ems, The Invincible Woman On Wheels

Age: 24

Condition: Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia

Location: Birmingham

What’s the reason/ message behind the blog: To give a realistic view of life with a disability. Disability isn’t all pity and sadness but let’s be real it’s not all sunshine and rainbows either.

 Q & A

What is the story behind the blog name and social media handles?
The idea essentially began on the Sicily trip which is the first post on here. My travelling companions and I managed to work around and overcome many challenges that we faced on this trip (both accessibility based and otherwise). This led to us calling ourselves the Invincible Women throughout the trip and beyond. Whilst on that trip those friends encouraged me to start thi blog. So when it came to thinking of a blog name, it only felt write to take inspiration from the name we’d given our trio on that trip, a sort of homage to where it all started. And so Invincible Woman On Wheels now exists as you know it.

Any advice for other disabled bloggers?
I think my biggest slice of advice would be to write about what you know from the viewpoint of your condition. By that I mean write about your experiences and don’t try and write about a topic, if you don’t think you have the right knowledge, just because you think you SHOULD be writing about it or it’s the “trendy” topic. I’d rather see “I don’t know about X” in a blog post than someone who’s trying to pull information from a website or such without any first-hand experience. My other advice would be honesty, particularly if you’re writing access reviews like I do. Venues may not like it too much if a review paints them in a negative light, but if you’re trying to give good access information to fellow disabled people, an honest, accurate review is better than a nicey nicey one.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked?
Someone I’d barely spoken to once asked me “So how do you have sex?” and I. I. I. JUST DON’T ASK THAT. There are 3 questions/comments here: a) Would you ask an able bodied person that?! b) Why does that question even enter your head as the first one to ask me?! c) That’s literally not anyone’s business unless we’re dating.

I hope these answers give a quick insight into me, the woman behind Invincible Woman On Wheels, and if anyone has any more questions, let me know!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

TFL Accessibility Interview: Transcript and Further Thoughts

A little while back, I did an interview with Colette Little from Colfessions about the accessibility of the TFL underground system in London! In today’s post I thought I’d run you through what we discussed, what I said then, and anything else I’d add, with what I know now.

In what ways do you think London transport needs to become more accessible?

What I said then:

The major problem is step free-ness, particularly with the tube, because 23%, around a quarter is step free, and that’s just not good enough. They advertise that as well – like that’s not something to advertise. If you think that’s good enough, that’s not. I think the other major issue is communication, because a lot of the times where I have issues with the tube, is that someone has put me on the train, and then not told whoever they’re supposed to tell, and there’s no one to get me off the train at the other end. Or the train terminates, and they don’t know I’m on it. Basically, they’re supposed to tell the line controller, who’s supposed to know, and they’re supposed to tell the station that I’m getting off. And either the station that I’m getting off at doesn’t get told so if I need a ramp to get off the train at the other end I don’t get it, or if the train terminates, and they haven’t told the line controller, if they know I’m on the train they’re supposed to stop it so I can get off and they can terminate it properly, and a few times they’ve stopped it at a station that isn’t accessible so I can’t get off, so I’ve been sat there at the door screaming or someone to get me off. Obviously in my manual chair, which is the other chair I use, I can’t get off the train myself I can’t wheel myself or anything, and in this, trying to get off a gap that’s say 4/5 inches, this would break (My electric chair that I’m currently sat in.) So, I would be sat at the door screaming and screaming and screaming for someone to get me off the train and it would take a good 10/15 minutes for them to figure it out, figure out that I’m on the train, and sort it out. Obviously in terms of my mental-ness it’s terrifying – the fact I go on the tube every single time and think will I be able to get off the train, will I be able to use the lift, will the lift work, will I have to go some weird way around to get to a lift that works. You always constantly think about that and you can’t just get on a train and think ‘its fine’. Unless I’m going to Kings Cross which is a station which I regularly use so I can roll on and off, and mentally, it’s draining frankly.

What’s changed:

I don’t think that much has changed since that interview, in regard to this question. I know there’s been a raft of new lifts put in and stations redesigned, so that quarter of stations wheelchair accessible figure is likely to be much higher, but the TFL website still says a quarter so I can’t be sure on the new figure. Those constant questions I mentioned about whether I’d be able to use lifts (or if they’d work) still exist, but I have to answer them less frequently now as I no longer live in London so only have to tackle the tube infrequently when I visit from Birmingham now.

Do you have any positive or negative specific instances, like stories, that you can tell me about?

What I said then:

The longest and most detailed story I can give you is we were coming home from a trip to Birmingham on the train. Got home to Euston, we were like ‘yeah we’ll get on at Euston Square and then Euston Square goes straight back to Uxbridge. Metropolitan line, the easiest trip you could make.’ No. We got the Euston Square and the lift was out, and my friend was with me, and I had to get my friend to go down the stairs to find someone to get them to call me a taxi because the policy that they put out is that if the lift is broken, or it’s not accessible somehow, TfL policy is that they’ll whether call you a taxi to take you home, or to the nearest accessible station – whichever is closest really. So, I was told they were calling me a taxi to Kings Cross, and I know it’s like a 10-minute walk, but we’ve walked all the way from Euston Square and if they owe me a taxi, they owe me a taxi. And the guy was like “that’s not the policy” so I had to screenshot the policy from the website and show it to him, and he was like “I’m going to get my manager because you’re lying.” And I was like “I’m showing you the website but okay.” So, his manager came up and was like “why have you dragged me here, she obviously is right, you know the rules, phone her a taxi.” We sat there and waited like half an hour for this taxi, and at that moment I was waiting on principle. Got in the taxi, we were told it has been paid for by TfL, so they prepaid it so we could just get out and wander off. Got to Kings Cross, got out the taxi, went to wander off, and he was like “no you need to pay me.” I was like “No, TfL have paid you, we’ve been told TfL have paid you” and he literally held us to ransom basically and wouldn’t let us leave until we had paid for the taxi and I was like “fine, just have your money.” Got to Kings Cross, and the Piccadilly line was broken from Kings Cross to we couldn’t use it and they’d already closed the Metropolitan line because it was a Wednesday and they close it at a certain time from Wembley onwards. So, then they had to put me on a Piccadilly line that went somewhere else. Stuck me on the Piccadilly line, so my friend had to change her plans and go to a different station to where she was going to go to because obviously a different lines, and then I was like “it’s fine, I’m getting a friend to pick me up from Uxbridge station anyway, so you can get off where you need to get off and I’ll just sit on the train that goes to Uxbridge and I can sit on a train by myself fine.” And this is when they terminated it at a station which I couldn’t get off at. So, I was by myself in my manual chair and there was no one else in the carriage and everyone just got off and I was there screaming for them to get off the train. And I had to keep texting and calling the friend who was picking me up and just say “this is how it is, this is how it is”, to the point where the guy at Uxbridge station was calling the line operator yelling at him about this whole situation, and ended up letting my friend through when I got to Uxbridge, letting her go on the platform without a pass or a ticket or anything because they knew I’d be in bits about this whole situation. It took, I think, four hours to get back from Euston with all that faff. It’s mad. There were very many different things, if one thing had happened it would be fine but there were about ten different things that went wrong. It was an interesting evening.

What’s changed:

Not much has changed here either, this is probably still the worst access experience I’ve had on TFL. However, what has changed is that I’ve FINALLY written that Euston/Euston Square ordeal up as its own blog post!

By 2024, TfL aim for 38% of underground stations to be step free. Do you think this is enough stations, and is it soon enough?

What I said then:

I think it’s sooner than I expected it to be. It’s still not enough stations, we’re always aiming for 100%, but it’s movement and that’s good. I’m trying to be as positive as I can here. I think there’s movement in the right direction, and it’s at a speed quicker than I thought it would be, and there’s definitely stations in the past four years or so that I can access that I couldn’t when I moved to London. There is movement, and it’s at a decent pace, but it’s not quick enough. I’m still glad that there is movement and they are working towards something, but they could just be like “no that’s it, 27% is enough.” It’s fast, it will never be fast enough frankly until it’s 100% step free, but there is movement and I’m appreciative of that.

What’s changed:

I think I was way more delicate with this answer than what I was probably actually thinking. While I’m appreciative of the fact that accessibility and redesigning stations isn’t instant. There’s no way the redesign is happening fast enough or at enough stations. NO. WAY. AT. ALL. I’d also be interested to see if that 8% figure and timeline is still going to be hit. Given that the website still says a quarter and we’re in 2020, I’m not holding out hope for the timeline to still happen.

How do you find out that a station has newly become step free, or there’s been a new lift installed?

What I said then:

Basically, I follow al the TFL lines on twitter because that’s the easiest way to find out if the lifts are broken. They tend to announce on there “the new plan is this” and they’ll announce a whole press release of this station by this year, this station by this year, or it just happens that I check the TfL journey planner and it gives me a new route which gives me a new station that I wouldn’t normally use. And I’m like “oh – they have step free access.” Also, the TfL access for all group I follow them quite a lot, so they seem to announce new places first because they have connections with TfL so it’s mostly social media.

What’s changed:

I see and know less about the new lifts and step free access at tube stations because I don’t live there anymore so I’m way less likely to just randomly wander into a newly step free station these days, my routes tend to focus on places I’ve already previously been. One way I find out about new station access that I forget to mention was Geoff Marshall’s YouTube channel, that was specifically how I found about the Bond Street lifts and new entrance, back when those were new.

Finally, with the definition of accessibility encompassing blind people, deaf people, people with autism, people with dementia etc., do you think a 100% accessible London is foreseeable in the future?

What I said then:

No, I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be 100% accessible in terms of step free, I think that’s a possibility, but I think in terms of accessible in terms of all disability I don’t think that’s going to happen, just because I think that for people with autism and stuff like that it’s a lot about crowds, and obviously with it being London, in particular the central stations, it’s always going to be busy. So that’s going to have to be the way that it works. I’m not saying they have to put up with that, but I think that’s a fact that you can’t really get away from, the fact that particularly central London – I’ve been through Westminster in rush hour, and it’s too busy. I don’t think you can ever get away from that and I’m not sure how they would work to make that accessible. I think step free accessibility, 100%, it’s a possibility. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen because you know – TfL. But I don’t think full accessibility for everyone it going to happen. I would like to see it happen, but I don’t know.

What’s changed:

I think this is the answer I wanted to change most since the interview. I feel like maybe it could be read like I was creating a pedestal for step free access and saying, “step free access has to happen and well nothing else is possible” and if that IS how it comes across, I want to make it clear that’s totally NOT what I meant. I just meant more in the fact of access for all is obviously the goal but, having watched TFL make an absolute farce of improving step free access, I’m not holding my breath on them being able to achieve access for all without making a mess of it.

I hope this is an insight into my views of accessibility on the London underground as a wheelchair user, thanks to Colette for interviewing me. If you want to read more of her blog you can check out the link I put right at the start of this post.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)