I recently delivered some user testing for Sainsbury’s in North London and one of our panel members who was user testing, needed to get a cab to Waterloo Station. Stewart has MS and was using a small scooter. Well we’ve all read about the difficulties people with mobility vehicles have in respect of transport, but this guy’s experiences really opened my eyes.
To try to be helpful, a Sainsbury’s colleague said she would order a cab and having made the call, and been told that one was on the way, I went with Stewart to wait on the pavement. So we waited, and we waited. Repeated calls were made to different taxi companies. Someone went to the main road and tried to hail a black cab, but there were no black cabs. We asked the taxi firm over the road if they could take him, but they had no accessible vehicles. We used a variety of social media channels to try to attract an accessible cab to our exact location. And two people went by car to the nearest taxi rank at a nearby station in order that one could take an accessible cab back to collect Stewart. All of these strategies failed … and still Stewart sat there. I must say he was extremely long suffering – but I guess he’s used to it.
Three hours passed and it was now 7pm and he’s starting to get agitated. In fact we all are. Eventually, a black minibus type cab came into the car park where we were waiting. I threw myself at the driver and begged him to take Stewart to Waterloo. He said he would but did not have ramped access. So this is what happened …
Stewart managed to raise himself out of his scooter, and in a standing position, leant against the side of the vehicle at the end of the back bench seat. His scooter was dismantled under his instruction and the pieces loaded bit by bit into the boot. Then, the taxi driver went round to the other side of the vehicle, opened the door, reached in across the bench seat, grabbed Steward under the arms and literally dragged him into the taxi, so he’s now lying across the back seat. Despite every effort, Stewart was unable to bend his legs in order to sit on the seat and so the taxi driver and I manhandled him into a sitting position, strapped him in and off he went to Waterloo. I’m not sure who was more distressed by this treatment, Stewart or me and I shudder to think of his experience. I should point out that the taxi driver was helpful, he did take him, and he did what he had to do, in order to. I think Stewart’s exit from the taxi was a little more gentle. And he got his train.
This simply can’t be right. We must all join every existing campaign to change the situation and give disabled people equal opportunities in all forms of public transport.