Inaccessible world

After publishing my film “A short film about pavements” this morning I have already had people suggest that I should not use a wheelchair on those paths because it is not designed for them, that I should rely on family or my local church to take me to where I need to go, that I simply want the government to spend more money that we haven’t got to fix the problem, and that it is bleeding heart socialist to ask for things to be made accessible for everyone.

So what was my point with the video? What do I want?

First of all, accessible buses with low floors. This is a reasonable adaption, and in fact a legal requirement by 2015. Unfortunately it takes time to do, and my local bus companies do not think it a priority to implement on the route that goes through my town.

Secondly, I would like broken pavements to be repaired and grass, mud and hedges to be kept back from the path. I can put up with a rattly bumpy ride, but where there are holes in the ground that necessitate my 86kg wheelchair being lifted out of after getting stuck, it’s quite reasonable to ask for it to be filled in.

Thirdly, I would like dropped kerbs at corners. In three examples in my film there are corners with no dropped kerbs, some quite new. At best this is negligence, possibly incompetence. These ramps should have been built in to start with. They are not a special requirement for wheelchairs, they are also needed for baby buggies, and people that have difficulty walking, and even just skateboards and roller skates. I’m sure there are more examples. Where corners have been built without dropped kerbs, these need to be fixed. It’s not an optional extra.

Why do I want all this? If we have no money, why shouldn’t I settle for being driven to the doctor, the pharmacy, the supermarket etc by volunteers from my local church, or by family members or friends? Big Society in action?

First of all, there is no guarantee of getting a volunteer. When I make an appointment with the doctor, I can’t check if there will be someone free to take me there a week or a month ahead. I can’t be on the phone to the doctor’s receptionist and the local church at once, arranging a mutually convenient time. And I have no idea if my father will be available to drive me during the working day, a month ahead.

Then there is the fact that it should not be necessary! I have a powerchair, there are buses, there is a walking route that goes where I need to go. (And is used by other people.) I should be able to use all these things.

I don’t have a car. I am too ill to ride my motorbike. I can’t afford the taxi fare at £17 for a round trip. I can’t walk to the bus stop and then walk around town afterwards. I need to take my wheelchair with me unless I’m not walking anywhere and not standing when I get there. Admittedly, I am going to apply for Disability Living Allowance which will help towards travel costs, but DLA is to be replaced by the much harder to get Personal Independence Payments, and that is going to withdraw support from many people on the basis that disabled people no longer need so much help because everything is accessible now. Everything is NOT accessible now.

I don’t want charity. I don’t want embarrassing reliance on other people. I don’t want to have to beg for help, or to feel like I am an inconvenience, or that I am causing problems by dragging my family or friends out of work to take me to places. I should be able to go there myself. I can go there myself. If only the council and the bus company did their jobs.


Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

5 thoughts on “Inaccessible world”

  1. Hiya, just wanted to say what a great post I think this is, I don’t think it’s a big thing to ask to be able to use pavements, to be able to cross a road. Why should you have to ask for/accept help? Esspecially when as you say, you can do all these things if people would do their jobs properly!
    Anyways, Thanks!
    PS: I had to use a scooter for a little while, but ended up giving up because I hated the way it made me feel, and the looks I kept getting. Luckily though the very nature of Relapsing Remitting MS is that you get worse/better, I just really hope I don’t have to be in that position again, and really hate how other people’s incompetence/thoughtlessness can effect people’s lives to such a huge extent!

  2. Your point about the upkeep of pavements is well
    made, and is relevant to so many more people than wheelchair/pushchair users. I
    have problems with balance because of stroke damage, and I find uneven
    pavements, potholes etc. extremely hard to cope with. I have actually fallen
    over more than once because of uneven ground, and, as I can’t stand on one leg,
    high kerbstones where there is nothing to hold on to are a problem. Politicians,
    who work and frequently live in cities, do not appreciate the difficulties faced
    by people with impaired mobility in rural areas.

  3. Yep. I went on the Hardest Hit March in May – in my manual wheelchair and without anyone to push me. Westminster Council should be strung up for the state of their streets and pavements – nightmare. I find one of the most difficult things too, is the steep camber on some pavements, making the wheelchair pull severely in one direction and wearing down the strength in one arm.

    This is a stark example of how society disables us – not our impairments.



  4. An excellent video and deserving of a mention in the Guardian today. Anyone who has used a wheelchair, or assisted someone with one, will be aware of the issue of pavements. The 2015 deadline won’t really help with public transport. I live on a route that has modern, fully accessible low floor buses. They are great and I really like them (but then I’m able-bodied and mainly enjoy the free wifi) – but there is only space for one or two wheelchairs and there is no booking scheme of any sort available – and even so, one of my local bus stops involves being dropped off on a grass verge. No dropped curb, and no flippin’ pavement either!  There should also be much more use of central-islands at crossing points on busier roads, so it is only necessary to cross one lane of traffic at once. These don’t cause delays to traffic like crossing lights, and are not expensive to maintain. Unfortunately, the car driver is king. If you can’t drive, you’re stuck with inadequate under-funded should-be-renationalised-immediately bus services, and if you can’t access buses, you’re just stuck completely. It is sad that the collapse of local community means more and more things are further and further away, at the exclusion of those who don’t seem to matter.

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