Taking a bus, a tube is one the most mundane acts in our daily routine. We do it regularly, carelessly and become quite irritable if the process takes over ten minutes. However, for people with physical disabilities, this simple act is an insurmountable obstacle; a right which has been denied to them for several decades.
On Tuesday afternoon a group of over 100 disabled activists, staged a protest outside parliament to raise awareness on the inaccessibility of London’s transport.
The day began with a brief lobby session in the house of commons with speakers including John McDonnel and Maria Eagle MPs and Faryal Velmi CEO of Transport For All. Following the powerful speeches, the protesters accompanied by local MPs, took to the streets.
As some sought to board the bus, defying hostile drivers intimating the wheelchair users not to mount, others sat in the middle of the road holding placards which read “equal access now“ and “accessible transport means access to work”.
The lack of functioning ramps and designated spaces ,on both buses, meant that after one hour of failed attempts only few were able to board the bus. The protest highlighted perfectly some of the issues disabled people face on a daily basis.
Navin Shah, London assembly member for Brent and Harrow said: “today we’ve seen how many problems still exist with retractable ramps, parking of wheelchairs etc. This situation is unacceptable and cannot go on forever”.
A transport system that caters to all is essential to guarantee an equal society. Robin Surgener, a former paralympian , said “ so many people are not able to get to work, to the hospital and take part in social activities because they cannot access public transport.
Part of the protest’s aim was also to shed light on the impact of government cuts to the Disability living allowance which many spend on alternative means of transport such as taxis andalternative means of transport. Christine Chizumba, long time civil rights activists said:“I spend my DLA on care and transport and if this gets cut I will be institutionalized within my own home.”
The inaccessibility of London’s transport also raises concerns regarding the functioning of the capital during the Paralympics.Navin Shah said, “the mayor of London pledged these would be the most accessible ever games. Unfortunately when you look at the reality only 60 accessible tube stations out of 270 it is clear this won’t be the case”.