Travelling from Chippenham to London Paddington as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It

I recently headed to London (O2 Academy Islington, to be precise) to see Picture This (an Irish band I’m mildly obsessed with) in concert. This involved taking a train from Chippenham to London Paddington (and back again the following day). This post recounts those journeys in full.

Outbound

Ticket Buying, Assistance Booking & Getting on at Chippenham

I bought my ticket on Trainline, my go to website (and app!) for train tickets. All I had to do was select the stations I’d be travelling from and to, add my Disabled Persons railcard to get the discount and pick my train. I chose an open return ticket because I was going to a farewell get together for one of my university friends the day after the gig so was not sure what time I’d be leaving London. It remained to be seen whether this open return would prove a problem when booking wheelchair assistance for the journey. These tickets were also mobile tickets which was not something I’d encountered before.

On Train

When boarding the train, I realised it was one of the old style GWR trains so I was sat in standard class , which isn’t a problem, and I was aware of where I’d be sat because I’d prebooked a wheelchair space and the wheelchair space is in a different carriage depending on whether it’s an old or new train) so I guess that’s more just a note for everyone else (I’ll let you in on a secret, the wheelchair space on the new style trains is… IN FIRST CLASS!) . The one problem I had onboard was minor issues with luggage being placed in the wheelchair space around/ in front of me. When it comes to situations like that, it’s difficult for me to know how to react because I understand that there’s limited luggage space on trains, but also that wheelchair space is my space, I wouldn’t put my luggage in your seat, so I don’t really want your luggage in my spot.

Disembarking & Leaving at London Paddington

On arrival at Paddington the assistance was a little late turning up. This made me nervous as I didn’t want to end up stuck on the train going the opposite way and end up back where started. When assistance did turn up I almost had to disembark and drive straight into a wall because of how the train had lined up with the platform (I moved to the next carriage and disembarked there obviously). Once finally off the train, I headed to the Tube.

Return

Assistance Booking & Getting on at London Paddington

I booked my return assistance 24 hours before the train as is always requested. There was a miscommunication which meant my assistance was initially booked for the wrong train, but I managed to get that fixed. When I arrived at Paddington Tube station I was taken from the Tube station to the main train station by a member of Tube staff. However, I then found I couldn’t get on my booked train because the coach I’d booked had been locked out due to water damage & the other coach with a wheelchair space wouldn’t fit on the platform at Chippenham. This is the kind of situation I should have been prewarned about, it’s why train companies take your phone number when you book assistance! Needless to say, I was not best pleased about the extra half hour wait for the next train.

On Train

Onboard the train, it was an old-style train, so I was in standard class. Other than that, nothing really much happened. I tend to find my issues with train travel involve getting on/off the train and not the onboard experience.

Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham

On arrival at Chippenham, I found they did not get the message about me being on a different train than stated on my original assistance booking, because the assistance just didn’t not turn up (mostly likely BECAUSE I was not on my booked train). Thankfully, the guard was able to get me off the train and I made my way home.

Thanks to Picture This for putting on a super cool show and one of the best I’ve ever been to. I hope this post gives an insight into travelling into/out of London on the train as a wheelchair user!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)

Three MORE Accessibility Issues With the London Underground

photo credit: @devplacephotos

While I’ve already discussed issues with the London Tube as a wheelchair user. I recently encountered 3 extra issues on my trip to North Greenwich station to head to the O2 for Arctic Monkeys live with my best friend Dev. This was certainly an eye-opening experience for Dev as to what it’s like travelling with me on the Tube.

The 3 issues were:

Step vs Gap

Some stations which are advertised as step free still have a gap between the platform and the train. As an example of how bad this problem is, we took 4 tube trains for this journey (Uxbridge – Wembley Park then Wembley Park to North Greenwich, and the same journey on the return), and had issues on 3 of them. These issues all ended with my front wheels getting stuck in the gap between the train and the platform. As can be expected, these situations left me terrified that I was going to fall onto the tracks. TFL (Transport For London) DO write the platform gaps at stations onto the map they hand out, so you can check platforms gaps at stations before you travel. But there are 2 problems with this: Firstly, I don’t explicitly know the dimensions of my chair, so I don’t KNOW what platform gaps it could handle. Secondly, why is the onus on me to have all this information about wheelchair dimensions and platform gaps to be able to travel safely? Can we not just make stations accessible or correctly label those that are fully accessible?

Arriving at Station to Lift Out of Service

When we arrived at North Greenwich station, we found that the lift from our side of the station to ticket level was out of order for planned maintenance. We were not informed of this when Wembley Park radioed through to inform North Greenwich we’d be turning up. This issue was compounded when North Greenwich refused to send assistance to meet us off the train, seen as how I didn’t need a ramp and therefore apparently didn’t need assistance (I mean, if I ask for assistance, I NEED assistance, but whatever). Thankfully there was a backup plan to get us out of the station using a different lift, but this was a backup plan we weren’t informed about. As you can imagine, this lead to quite the panic when we got off the train to the sight of no apparent access out of the station and no idea how we’d get to the gig.

Staff Instructions Not Matching Signage

Some stations have a sticker on certain platform doors stating, “board here for level access at such and such other station”. In our case we were at North Greenwich and the sticker indicated the carriage for level boarding at Wembley Park (our destination). Having noted this, I headed toward the sticker, because surely it would be the safest place for me to board? Apparently not, as a member of TFL staff redirected me to the other end of the platform. This decision led to issue 1 (where my front wheels got stuck in the platform gap) both when boarding and disembarking this train. My takeaway point here is to make sure that staff training, and communication matches the signage at stations because, after incidents like this, I am ALWAYS more inclined to follow station signage than staff instruction!

I hope this provides more insight into the issues with the London Tube system as a wheelchair user.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)

Islington O2 Academy Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Photo Credit: Ellie Hart

Back to gigs, and a new venue this time! Which means another access review. This one is of the O2 Academy in Islington where I saw Picture This. As always, the review will be split into purchasing tickets, travel and experience/seating on the night.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Purchasing Tickets

The process of purchasing a ticket wasn’t straightforward. The venue website’s access page provided a phone number through which tickets could supposedly be purchased so I thought it was just going to be the standard disabled access booking line. However, when I called I was told to buy a general admission ticket and email them afterwards to request a wheelchair space and carer ticket. If that wasn’t irritating and confusing enough, I then got a private Direct Message on Twitter from the venue following a tweet (that they were tagged) stating my confusion about disabled access tickets (I’d raaaaather they dealt with access issues and mistakes in public where everyone else can see steps being taken, but as long as it gets sorted it gets sorted). There they told me tickets sold over the phone were sold through a different number than the one on the site, all of this left me wondering exactly what the protocol was for disabled access tickets at this venue. Not to be deterred from my mission, I bought a general admission ticket from Seetickets (my go-to ticketing company if I need one) and sent the “I bought a ticket” email to the venue as requested. I was then sent a form to fill in stating my details and accessibility requirements and was also asked to send in some proof of disability such as a PIP (Personal Independence Payment, British disability benefit) document. Now, while I understand filling in these forms for disabled access to stop misuse of the spaces by those who do not need them (or whatever the reasoning is) It definitely extends the ticket buying process, and believe me, I’d be dancing at the barrier with everyone else if I could! After all that rigmarole I was FINALLY able to obtain a wheelchair access ticket and carer ticket!

Travel

In terms of travel, I first took the train from Chippenham to London. Then, in terms of getting from editor extraordinaire Nikki’s house in Uxbridge (where I stayed for the evening) to the venue, I took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Kings Cross, which was fine. I then took a bus to Islington which was NOT fine. I was not allowed on the first bus as the driver insisted that the wheelchair space was given to wheelchair users OR people with buggies on a first come first served basis (FYI that’s not how it works, and I tried telling the driver that, but he refused to listen). On the second bus I was able to share with a buggy in the wheelchair space. For the journey back, I took a bus to Kings Cross and then the Piccadilly line from there to Uxbridge.

Experience & Seating

When we arrived at the venue, we headed straight to the front of the queue, so we could pick up the carer ticket. We were then taken upstairs in a lift and led to our space at the side of the stage. We were on same level as those with floor standing tickets which gave us a near perfect view (other than a few small issues with people blocking my view following a stage invader) I don’t know exactly what happened with the whole stage invader incident, one moment I’m singing and dancing along to one of my favourite tunes and the next there’s a random guy on stage and security are stressing out trying to get him off the stage. I didn’t quite know whether to be amused or concerned or how I was supposed to react since this was the first time I’d seen a stage invader at a gig, but I’m sure the person meant no harm. So, when I say “people” were blocking my view following a stage invader, I mean security stood in front of me for a while, obviously stressing about a repeat of the minor stage invasion. On that topic, just a little extra note on where we were, we were at the front of the building to the right of stage. We had direct access to the bar as it was right beyond us (bonus!) and but we simply separated from the main crowd by a single metal barrier. There were chairs for carers to sit on if they wished and there was also a member of security in our area the whole time who we could ask questions to (and who could move the barrier back and stop people from squishing us when they leant over said barrier to get closer to the band). After the gig, we were helped to get out of the venue (from our spot at the front to the exit door at the back) by fellow fans. I really appreciated that because I was nervous about how difficult it was going to be leaving such a small venue in a wheelchair, so many thanks to those fans!

I know this is an accessibility review, so I don’t often speak about the show itself, but I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band look so genuinely excited to be up on stage that Picture This (perhaps the intimate small venue setting was part of that). The atmosphere was utterly electric, and I’ve probably never smiled as much as that gig. The happiness was infectious, and I could go to a Picture This gig every day forever and still come away as happy as that every time (side note: lads if you ever want a disability access review for a show, you know where to find me!). If you ever get a chance to see these guys live I urge you to do it!

Thanks to Picture This for putting on a fabulous show, and to O2 Academy Islington for (other than the laborious ticket buying process) being quite an accessible and accommodating venue.

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)

Lost Evenings II Wheelchair Accessibility Review (The Monarch, Roundhouse and Dingwalls)

Photo Credit: YoshiKyon

Recently, I headed to Lost Evenings II, a 4-day festival in Camden set up by Frank Turner (who I love for various reasons that I have discussed in a previous blog post). Sadly, I only went for the Saturday and not the full 4 days. But even that involved a trip to the Monarch, the night at Camden Roundhouse and then an afterparty at Dingwalls. So, here’s an accessibility review of all 3 venues (yeah that’s right this is a 3 in 1 deal, I do spoil you!)

The Monarch

First port of call for the evening was the pub (what did you expect honestly?) Now I usually split reviews like this into ticket buying, getting there and the experience and seating. However, in terms of tickets, there were none needed because well, it’s a pub so that was one hurdle avoided.

In terms of getting there, we (by we I mean my friend Dev) drove to Camden, parked up in our prebooked parking spot at the Roundhouse (more on that later) and strolled the rather longer than expected distance to the pub.

In terms of overall experience, this is where it gets interesting. We arrived and headed to the main entrance. I then requested that the doorman open the flat, wheelchair accessible entrance so I could get in. I knew this entrance was there as I’d been to the Monarch before (and we’d walked past it on the way to the main entrance). However, this request was repeatedly refused with the doorman even denying the existence of an accessible entrance. It was suggested that I be carried in in my chair, he then gestured at me to stand and walk in (I like a drink, but I’m not about to take my first unaided steps just to get one when there’s access available!). Obviously, I refused both of those suggestions as I was determined to get the access I asked for and know is there. I was then ignored and sat in the rain until a member of the Solo Armada (group of Frank Turner fans determined to make sure no one goes to a gig alone) kicked up a fuss (because no one was listening to me) and spoke to the doorman to helped me get in. Once we were FINALLY in, I found that the bar was downstairs and therefore I couldn’t get my own drink, which was kind of annoying but not a rare occurrence in many of the pubs I’ve been in. One of the things I can’t fault is the brilliant atmosphere. There’s really nothing better than belting out a Frank Turner song with strangers in the middle of pub with a drink in hand!

Roundhouse

Then it was off to the Roundhouse for the main event of the evening! In terms of ticket buying, it was just your standard “call the accessible booking line” kind of deal so pretty much the same as most other venues.

In terms of getting there, as I’ve said above, Dev drove, and we parked up in our prebooked parking space. We were given directions on where to park when I booked the space, but it was still difficult to get in as the parking bays were difficult to find and you have to go behind a gate (which you have to request to be opened) so there’s a lot more involved in the parking than I expected.

In terms of experience and seating. It was quite difficult getting from the parking into the venue. Mostly due to poor quality ramp getting from the parking bays into the back of the venue. Once we were in we had quite a good view, we were sort of off to the side and up on a balcony. This also gave a good view of the standing and pit area, so I really felt like part of the crowd. Crowd control on the way out was pretty good, However, there was a long wait to be able to get to the lift for the lower level, but I felt this situation was well handled. Part of the issue was that half of the queue that we had to wait on was the merch queue (which we didn’t want to be in). I’m not sure if it’s the way the venue is or because it was a festival sort of situation, but the question still stands, why build a system where queues equals blocked disabled access?

Dingwalls

And after the brilliant gig it was time to partayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy with an afterparty headlined by Shikari Sound System at Dingwalls. I bought tickets online like everyone else and there were actually no specific disabled tickets, while this might stress other people out, I was assured from the info on the site that the venue was accessible, and it was good to feel like I was getting the same experience as everyone else.

In terms of getting there, we drove from the Roundhouse to street parking near (ish) Dingwalls and walked since there was no parking at the venue (something which was stated on the website, so we were aware prior to arriving).

In terms of the experience, we arrived and were led around to a back entrance (side note: I hate Camden cobbles as does my spine) and then inside to a fairly busy section with not the best view. However, we found a better spot around the side of the same level which was quieter and gave me a better view, but it was near the toilets. These are the kind of standard sacrifices I have to make to get a decent view with a disability, but I was still able to dance and drink the rest of the evening away!

I hope this post gives an enlightening view on my experience of Lost Evenings II.

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

ANOTHER O2 Arena London Wheelchair Accessibility Review (For UFC Fight Night London 2018)

I know I’ve reviewed The O2 Arena before but this one specifically focuses on my experience at UFC Fight Night London 2018, which was so different to all my previous experiences. As usual, I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.

In terms of the ticket buying process, it was no different than my other O2 Arena experiences, other than the fact I got these tickets on presale rather than general sale.

Travel was way more complex due to Tube upgrades meaning Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines both didn’t run from Uxbridge. Getting there involved taking the U3 bus to Heathrow Central, then the Piccadilly line from Heathrow to Green Park and THEN the Jubilee line to North Greenwich. The return journey involved getting the Jubilee line to Bond Street where there were “access issues” to put it politely (dragging a powered wheelchair off a tube train to avoid being crushed by the doors is no mean feat , add to that the pathetic apology I received on the night and post complaint about the access issues and you have a a pretty standard Tube trip in a wheelchair. These are issues I often face as a wheelchair user on the Tube. There was then a loooooooooooong trip on the N207 back to Uxbridge (Night buses on St Patrick’s Day also no fun!)

The experience & seating was where I noticed the most difference. We had a much poorer view from W108 as opposed to W101 where I’ve been every other time. We were placed right at the back of the venue and were not guided or directed to our seats or even to the lift to get to our seats. Neither were we directed out towards the lift to exit when the event ended, (even though it was PRETTY obvious we were struggling to make it through the droves of people who were also trying to exit), despite having asked multiple staff about the location of said lift. Out of sight, out of mind I guess if you’re a disabled guest with a seat at the back of the venue? And to top it off, we were almost crushed trying to get back into North Greenwich station after the event. (For a tube station right next to a major venue, crowd control measures at North Greenwich don’t really seem to exist, and neither does the decency of fellow fans to not crush me as they try to re-enter the station. Lack of crowd control lead to the access issues at Bond Street that I described above

The joys of just trying to see some MMA action as a disabled fan! I’m genuinely a little disappointed in you, O2 Arena… I always hype you up as a great venue for access and customer service as a disabled guest, and this time you let me down.

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

Lyric Hammersmith Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Accessibility Review Time! This one’s about the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in well, Hammersmith. I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Now, I recently went to the Lyric with my friends Aoife & Ellie (yes, the girls from my earlier Sicily travel blog) to see Things I Know To Be True (which I highly recommend you go see if it’s being performed at a theatre near you at any point, it was mind blowing and made me remember how good theatre can be!). Here’s how the whole experience was:

In terms of ticket buying, it’s just the standard accessible ticket line in order to be able to purchase a wheelchair space ticket along with a carer and another standard ticket. They made sure to find us a spot to seat all 3 of us together which was a welcome surprise because usually venues will only seat the disabled person and carer in the wheelchair areas and then other party members have to sit elsewhere (because disabled people only have that 1 friend right?)

The travel is also really rather simple, it’s just a bus to the Uxbridge station and then the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith for me (and then making sure you walk out of the easiest exit from Hammersmith station to head to the Lyric, I had my friend and Hammersmith local Jess to help me out with that one!)

With regard to seating and experience, we were in the stalls on the ground floor right at the back which the girls, who have been to the theatre a lot more than me, assured me was basically the best view in the house so yay disability perks! Staff were also great constantly guiding us on where to go which I found to be very helpful as I much prefer saying “oh yeah we’ve just been told where to go by xyz person” rather than consistently having to ASK where we need to go. The one thing I would say is they could do with a lowered section to the bar where the water is, so I can get my own water rather than having to rely on someone else to get it for me. However, the automated exit/entrance door was greatly appreciated as it made everyone’s lives and I thought it was particularly nice of the staff to wait for us to leave (yay for being the last out as we have to go in the complete opposite direction to everyone for an accessible exit) before leaving themselves.

So, thanks to everyone at the Lyric Hammersmith for making it super easy for me to enjoy a night at the theatre with my gals!

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

HMV Oxford Street Wheelchair Accessibility Review

This one’s a blog about the accessibility of HMV Oxford Street on well, Oxford Street. Again, this doesn’t sound blog worthy, but I know it’s the flagship HMV store so figured a lot of people would be interested in going there (particularly since it’s tourist shopping heaven on Oxford Street) so I thought an accessibility review would be useful.  I’ll be splitting it into the journey to/from the store and general experience at the store. I’ll probably end up adding my thoughts on the ticket buying process and seating for in store signings etc. if I ever actually make it to an in-store signing.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Getting there was not the most complex trip, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest. For me, it involves a bus to Uxbridge station then the Metropolitan line to Wembley Park and the Jubilee line to Bond Street. This was complete with the usual issue of staff at Wembley Park not believing there are lifts at Bond Street, despite those lifts having been in for 2 months now (Issues like these are just one of my many issues with the accessibility of the Tube network)

In terms of general experience, it was again, somewhere between great and terrible. The aisles seemed really rather narrow, something which was made worse by a signing on that day which meant the queue for the signing sometimes spilled out into the shop and made the aisles even narrower (it was possibly our own fault for going on a day there was a signing on, but to be fair we didn’t know it was happening until we were half way there). There was also a tiny, TINY, hidden lift to get to the second floor, maybe the lift’s like that because it’s an older building? Not that being an old building is an excuse for poor accessibility, but it’s the only reasoning I could see for such a tiny lift where my chair could only just fit.  Then we finally get to paying and there was no lowered till or wireless card machine/ card machine on an extended cable which made paying super difficult

I hope this post helps some people to understand the accessibility of this flagship store and encourages HMV to make their stores more accessible.

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

KOKO Camden Wheelchair Accessibility Review

Another accessibility review, this one is about KOKO in Camden. I’ll be splitting it into the ticket buying process, the journey to/from venue and seating/general experience at the event.

(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric/manual wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)

Buying tickets was pretty simple, but it was also probably different from even your usual disabled access ticket buying situation for this venue, that’s because this was the venue where I saw Corey Taylor solo on his “You’re Making Me Hate You book tour. So, I was able to book my ticket through the O2 priority website (literally the only reason my phone contract is with O2!) like everyone else. I then emailed KOKO with what show I’d booked for and what access accommodations I’d require, for me that’s a carer ticket on their 2 for 1 carer ticket system and access to some kind of disabled access viewing platform (they offer wheelchairs that you can hire I believe, but I have my own snazzy wheels so that was not needed for me). The manager of KOKO then response confirming that my accommodations were in place and that his response email counted as the carer ticket

Getting to the venue was also wonderfully simple, we took a cab to Uxbridge Station followed by the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge (where, as per every single time, a ramp is  required) to Kings Cross Station (which is completely step free). We then took as bus to near Mornington Crescent Station then a short walk to the actual venue

In terms of getting seated and general gig experience, I made myself known to the management/ security who then escorted us inside the venue and up to the viewing platform and made sure we were comfortable and had a good view. I’m also told they were constantly watching and checking on us to make sure we were comfortable throughout the gig, not that I ever looked away from the stage BECAUSE COREY TAYLOR (those of you who know me personally will know Corey Taylor is basically my favourite musician in the universe and this gig made my millennium)

And that’s basically it! Oh, how I love a short accessibility review because that means very few access issues! I find it funny how small venues with less than 1500 capacity (aka KOKO) can present fewer access issues than larger 10,000 standing venues (*cough* Alexandra Palace *cough*)

Kudos to KOKO for making it as easy as possible for me to be the #invinciblewomanonwheels and shout out to Corey Taylor for making the gig I’ve been waiting years for totally worth the wait!

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

Top 5 Issues with The London Underground as a Wheelchair User

As every Londoner knows, it’s compulsory to complain about the Tube system. So naturally, I blogged about it:

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as issues go, to explain every issue with the Tube I’d be writing a novel (but since my editor only has the attention span suitable for a blog post, that’s all you’re getting)

General Inaccessibility

Only a quarter of Tube stations are accessible, a fact stated on the TFL website! I know I’m the #invinciblewomanonwheels but even I am not going to try driving my wheelchair down a set of stairs just to access Camden Town. As my friend Nikki said when I brought the issue, if you put the prospect of only being able to use a quarter of the Tube network to anyone else in London, they’d think you were insane. Yet TFL boasts that very figure on their website like it’s something to applauded. This makes it seem like the disabled community, particularly from my view as a wheelchair user, are expected to “just deal with” inaccessibility.

Uninformed Staff

Ironically, this issue stems from TFL trying to update Tube stations in terms of accessibility by adding lifts. I’ve had issues interchanging at certain stations (*cough* Wembley Park *cough*) because they refuse to put me on a train to my destination (Bond Street) because Bond Street staff say there aren’t lifts at the station, when I know there are, and I have in fact used them! The last time this issue arose, what resulted was a 20-minute “discussion” with the station staff (I argued that there WERE lifts, and they were giving me incorrect information until it was confirmed that were in fact lifts). Welcome to me being stubborn as hell about proving I’m right. At the point of this incident, the Bond Street lifts had only been in for about a month and it turns out the online TFL Journey Planner, which I use to plan all my journeys, had been updated to reflect the new lifts at Bond Street, but the paper maps in the station that staff are given had not. So, TFL, it’s all good upgrading stations to make them accessible, but inform your staff of those upgrades or for pity’s sake it’s 2018 give them updated electronic Tube maps!

Definition of “Accessible”

A stations’ definition of accessible can be a little “interesting” at times. Take my recent experience at Stanmore station, for example, making me (a small, disabled young woman) travel through an unlit car park and then up a road with no path to separate me from the oncoming cars, seems pretty dodgy, right? Yet that’s exactly what I had to do. Now I know my wheelchair is seen as a road worthy vehicle but if it comes down to it and it’s me vs car, the car wins every single time. I’m glad I had someone with me leaving that station because I don’t think I’d have been comfortable leaving alone, and the most irritating thing? When I was discussing how we were supposed to get out of the car park with the person I was with, he suggested the road, I was arguing that there MUST be a safer way out and some strange woman says, “oh yeah that’s your way out” and smiles, again like I’m just to supposed to deal with access like this. You don’t think me having to walk through an unlit car park is a problem, no problem at all no?

Communication Between Stations

So so so  many times I’ve had staff at the station I’m leaving from “ring ahead” to my destination station to tell them an MIP (Mobility Impaired Person, i.e. yours truly) will be en route to their station so they can expect me,  and then I get to my destination to be told “oh no one told us you were coming .  It transpires the staff at the station I was leaving told the line manager, who then told no one (even if they’re supposed to pass the message on to the destination station) So TFL, here’s a revolutionary idea that will save everyone hassle, how about we inform the people that are going to be dealing with me that I’m going to be on a train and skip the line manager middle man I never see? And yes, I know protocol and red tape and stuff, but things don’t seem to be being done the way they’re supposed to anyway so what difference does it really make?

Refusing my accommodations

Yeah, you heard me right, station staff have literally refused to give me what I need to be able to safely board a train. When I’m asking for accommodations I’m not asking to be carried to the train on a golden throne (although if you want to I’m not complaining) all I’m asking for is a ramp, and yet some staff (I emphasise SOME staff, shout out to those who actually give me the accommodations I ask for) however, certain stations (e.g. Wembley Park) refuse to give me the ramp. For example, I’ll ask for the ramp to get on the Jubilee line because my front wheels have previously gotten stuck in the gap between train and platform and my request will be met with “you don’t need that you’ll be fine”, at which point my front wheels precede to get stuck as predicted as the staff member gets my “I told ya” face. Now I realise some people will probably see me as the naïve, young disabled girl, but believe me, I’m 100% aware of what my chair can and cannot do, and likelihood is, if I’m requesting to do something a certain way, I’ve tried and failed with the usual method and don’t want to have the issue again. And only fools make the same mistake twice, right? This gal, not a fool!

Feel free to add your own Tube issues on the comments of this post, and I guess the last thing I have to say is, while you’ll never make me leave this brilliant city, there are so many ways its’ Tube network needs to be better for disabled Londoners (or visitors).

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)

The Problem with Brunel University London’s Blue Badge Parking Policy

I know I said I wouldn’t post about university issues often on here, but this parking policy and its enforcement is an ongoing issue for disabled students at Brunel and this blog is a platform for issues to be voiced so voice issues I shall.

Now, first thing’s first, I use the term ‘policy’ loosely when discussing Brunel’s disabled parking because policies are defined as involving action and, as far as I can tell, there’s very little action happening when it comes to the enforcement of this policy.

Before the inevitable comments roll in, I understand that disabled parking issues aren’t entirely the university’s fault and there will always be people who park where they want, when they want, regardless of whether they’re Blue Badge holders or not.  What really needs to change here is how that’s dealt with and how the policy is enforced as a whole.

The first issue is that, when the policy’s enforced, it’s only enforced between 9am and 5pm despite security officers (who enforce the policy) being available on campus 24/7, like disabled students don’t need their Blue Badge after 5pm or I can just hop out of my wheelchair and go for a stroll past 5pm?! Disability isn’t time constrained, so I don’t see why disabled parking policies are, particularly when there are people who can enforce the policy.

You, like me, are probably wondering why the policy isn’t enforced after 5pm, well, students have been told that the policy can’t be enforced after 5pm as there is no machine available for parking tickets after this time, this is, however, known to be untrue as student have seen the machine in use after 5pm when they’ve persevered and made security use it, so it seems not enforcing the policy after 5pm is more an issue of won’t than can’t.

When it is mentioned to students that they’re parking in a disabled bay without a badge there tend to be 2 main responses. The first is “I park here all the time”, that’s the problem, you’re not supposed to, so just don’t, those spaces are meant for those who physically don’t have the mobility to park elsewhere, not those who physically can’t be bothered to walk a few extra feet (and with the layout of Brunel’s halls parking it really is no more than a few extra feet).

On the subject of not being able to park elsewhere, the other response is “You can park somewhere else”, no no no, the entire point of a Blue Badge is that you are judged to need to park in a Blue Badge space. There are Blue Badge eligibility criteria, and if you meet those, there’s no argument about it, you NEED that space, and I bet if you asked Blue Badge holders if they’d swap their Blue Badge for the mobility to be able to park anywhere, I’m pretty sure they’d say yes, I know I would.

You’re probably asking, “Why not just say something?” or “Why not just bring it up with the university?”, and the short answer is, the issue has been raised but it’s been acknowledged and ignored. Brunel’s viewpoint on this (and other disability issues) seems to be, as my friend Sean put it, “it’s a problem but it’s not my problem”.

I never want to bash my university and expose their faults, but I hope this post opens their eyes as to how much of an issue disabled parking is at Brunel.

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)