My hatred of public transport continues to escalate as my need to use it increases. That pre-rehearsed speech I have had in my head about the general public’s disregard and prejudice towards those with disability, becomes ever closer to an actual thing I am going to spit in a stranger’s face when they do one or more of the things that make it very difficult to live with an almost invisible disability in London.
The obstacles I face when I get on the bus, seem great, and my need to find an alternative means of transport in the form of a taxi is increasing. I say ‘seem’, because I have no idea if I have wound myself up to find issues or whether the selfishness of humankind really is on display every time I venture outside my flat.
I thought travelling would get easier over time, but it is not. It is not getting any easier. The act of using any mass form of TFL supported transported does not empower me not does it offer me independence. Travelling may get me from A to B, and then to C, but in order for me to do that on a bus or tube, I am slapped around the face by my limitations and illness, and my is that a rotten feeling to have every time I use an Oyster Card.
A few weeks ago after my treatment, I found myself using my Oyster Card on Tottenham Court Road and I think it would be a fair assessment to say that I was not happy with the situation I found myself in. By situation, I mean having to get the 73 bus northbound. Experience tells me that this particularly bus is populated by selfish bunts. I used to use said bus regularly.
Anyway, where was I? Yes, I was on the bus, and over the course of my journey, I drafted and submitted the following, which sums up my thoughts about TFL quite nicely;
“Vehicle reg: LJ11 EFK
I got the 73 bus from the Warren Street stop towards Stoke Newington.
I have concerns about the provision for disabled passengers more generally on London buses. Having previous fractured a vertebrae when a bus broke, I am understandably cautious when I am on a bus, and this includes a bus driving before I have had a chance to reach my seat. I walk with a walking aid. The issues are made more difficult by passengers not understanding the priority seats.
Today, however, my usual concerns were exasperated by a particularly rude bus driver. As I sat in the priority seat nearest the driver, my walking stick fell to the floor. Not a big deal I know, but it apparently warranted the bus driver shouting at me twice, on a full bus, to look after my stick and agressively shout ‘secure your stick’. Now, I have just had chemo at UCLH and I have a bag of drugs in one hand and my handbag in the other, so ‘securing’ my stick is somewhat difficult when I have nowhere to put it. It is something I find difficult when my hands are free. This is not the way to speak to disabled people. The driver has no idea why I have to walk with a stick and he should be respectful of that. There is much stigma attached to being disabled, and being shouted at by a bus driver because of my disability was humiliating and unwarranted.
A falling stick may make noise, but before he opened his mouth to voice his annoyance he should have considered my annoyance at having to walk with one and everything else that encompasses. It is ignorance.
Further more, at Kings Cross, there was another passenger with a Zimmer frame, whom the driver refused to let enter at the back of the bus (she did not seem capable of walking a far distance) and thus she chose not to get on the bus because she could not navigate the bends at the entrance.
It was an infuriating journey.
As I mentioned before, TFL’s approach to disabled passengers is far from perfect (I would suggest more priority seats for a start), and this bus driver just provided further evidence to support my view that the appropriate concessions are not made for disabled passengers. I do not think it is much to expect a few concessions and understanding from TFL employers/contracted staff, when one is attempting to remain as independent as possible and unfortunately, this was not afforded to me today.
Nothing I do, will inspire a cultural shift in the commuter population; it will always be insular and self serving. I doubt, whether my complaints will make the driver think twice before he is rude to somebody again. Externally, the impact of me complaining was minimal. Internally, it made me feel a hell of a lot better. Especially when I received the apology. I have found a new pastime.
“1 April 2014
Dear Ms Jones,
Thank you for your recent e mail regarding the driver of the route 73 bus you travelled on from Warren Street on 20th March.
I was concerned to learn of your experience. We expect our staff to be courteous and sympathetic towards our disabled customers and behaviour such as you described is unacceptable.
I can confirm that from the details you gave, we have been able to identify the driver in question who has since been interviewed by his manager where he was advised on all aspects of your complaint and reminded of his responsibilities. He will also be closely monitored to make sure that there are no further incidents of this nature.
Thank you once again for taking the trouble to bring this matter to our attention and I hope that you will accept my apologies for the inappropriate behaviour by a member of our staff.
Customer Services Manager
Small victories. They make me feel less weak.