I’ve got no sympathy for rail disruption stories, there is a reason for it — every day is a strike day when you’re disabled - GulfToday

I’ve got no sympathy for rail disruption stories, there is a reason for it — every day is a strike day when you’re disabled

Train-UK

Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

James Moore, The Independent

“Train strikes: How did passengers cope with day one?” The BBC informed us that, although it wasn’t quite as bad on past occasions – because lots of people are now geared up to work from home – there were still some fairly miserable stories emerging from people caught short.

It isn’t terribly noble of me, but I struggle to sympathise. I’m sorry about that. I really am. Perhaps it was nearly spending a night on the streets of Camden that did it. I wrote a column about it a while back. I’d gone to a Sparks gig on Easter Sunday and carefully planned the trip, only to have it spectacularly blow up in my face.

Finding myself unable to access Uber, with minicab offices closed and a critically endangered snow leopard easier to find than a black cab on London’s streets, I approached a Tube manager with a plan to get me, plus wheelchair, plus crutches onto the station – only to be told to get lost. But some of his best friends are disabled people, you know.

True, this was a quiet bank holiday evening (explaining the lack of minicabs) but, believe me, it’s the sort of thing that can happen at any time. “Train strikes: How did passengers cope with day one?” The BBC informed us that, although it wasn’t quite as bad on past occasions – because lots of people are now geared up to work from home – there were still some fairly miserable stories emerging from people caught short.

It isn’t terribly noble of me, but I struggle to sympathise. I’m sorry about that. I really am. Perhaps it was nearly spending a night on the streets of Camden that did it. I wrote a column about it a while back. I’d gone to a Sparks gig on Easter Sunday and carefully planned the trip, only to have it spectacularly blow up in my face.

Finding myself unable to access Uber, with minicab offices closed and a critically endangered snow leopard easier to find than a black cab on London’s streets, I approached a Tube manager with a plan to get me, plus wheelchair, plus crutches onto the station – only to be told to get lost. But some of his best friends are disabled people, you know.

True, this was a quiet bank holiday evening (explaining the lack of minicabs) but, believe me, it’s the sort of thing that can happen at any time.Every day disabled travellers venture out on public transport is a strike day. Every day involves navigating an obstacle course. Every day we run the risk of getting upended.

You might have seen the story of Chris Nicholson this week. He’s a wheelchair user who had to drag himself up the stairs at a railway station after staff refused to help, citing “health and safety”. The lift he needed was out of action – a depressingly regular occurrence. Nicholson, an athlete and influencer, was eventually assisted by a member of the public and then an assistant manager.

I’ve previously written about Anne Wafula Strike, a British Paralympian, who found herself on a train without an accessible toilet, with the inevitable, awful consequences. Then there’s my visually impaired friend who literally had to take their glass eye out to prove their impairment and that the disabled person’s railcard they carry was legit.

I was recently trying to meet up with a friend I’d not seen for more than 20 years via the London Underground when I encountered my own lift snafu. Mercifully, the next station down the line had a working one, so I was only three quarters of an hour late. It was nowhere near as bad as Nicholson’s experience, but the inability to get off at my chosen station was never an issue I encountered in my able-bodied days and, had there not been an alternative, I might not have seen my friend for another 20 years.

He lives in Sri Lanka, so I’d otherwise have to fly. Flying, I’m afraid, is not something I dare to contemplate. I take my hat off to the intrepid disabled travellers who do. They’re Britain’s modern-day equivalents of Scott of the Antarctic. You’ve seen the chaos pictured at airports. Now imagine navigating that in a wheelchair.

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