Over a year after campaigner Doug Paulley won his historic case in the Supreme Court, I welcome news that, finally, ministers intend to improve bus access for wheelchair users. We know that government moves slowly, but we are aware that signs saying wheelchair users have priority over buggies, plus driver powers to insist a wheelchair space on public transport is vacated, are all under consideration.
One could be forgiven for wondering why action has not come sooner. Signs and campaigns are unlikely to prove sufficent and we look forward to a package of measures being announced later this year. Whilst we recognise it could be inconvienient to move pushchairs, we also recognise the able bodied are perhaps not afforded the same protection as the disabled, (who can pick up bags, fold a pushcair or walk) as these are all things wheelchair users can never do.
No one in The British Polio Fellowship wants confrontation with others who rely on public transport, too. The disabled community fear travel enough, without adding public resentment. We would prefer to see improved space for all. However, we should not have to fight for the basic facilities so hard won, provided for us in law.
It boils down to a crisis in public transport, when able and disabled travellers are fighting for scraps. It took hard fought battles by our late member Sir Bert Massie and others, for wheelchairs to be accepted on bus, taxi and train and Mr Pauley’s experiences remain common among many living with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). More space for all is the answer and radical solutions, rather than signs, must start to come forward.
The British Polio Fellowship can be found at www.britishpolio.org.uk or call 0800 043 1935.
National Chairman, The British Polio Fellowship