Posted in Archive, August 2021

Freedom; Are The Disabled Included?

We recently were fortunate enough to spend a chunk of time down south visiting my mum. It was a lovely break away from routine, and the kids were over the moon to get to have a ‘extra long sleepover’ with their Granny. If it weren’t for the newly added hand sanitizers that appeared on every corner one could almost forget about the pandemic for a moment.

On our way home we chose to pull in at a service station to let the kids stretch their legs after hitting the que of another incident. The kids dad took them off to the toilets whilst I popped into the shop. I only needed a couple of items, and instantly looked for a basket as one hand is strapped up at the moment due to scaphoid fracture. There were none.

It may sound dramatic to say that I started to feel anxious at this point but it’s true. I can’t hold things in my fractured hand and my other is occupied with my trusty walking stick. In the end I resorted to cradling the items in the crook of my elbow. I dropped them repeatedly. The staff noticed from behind the counter and did nothing other than stare. Other customers, who were incredibly kind, helped me gather up my shopping as I shuffled about, hunted for a basket and confirmed that due to Covid they’d been taken away.

Eventually, feeling really rather embarrassed at my inability to hold a couple of items, I approached the staff at the tills. When I queried the lack of baskets, I was met with a shrug and a murmured grumble about Covid. I asked about how they expected their disabled customers to cope, after all they had watched me struggle and drop my items several times. In reply he simply offered to scan my shopping and bag it for me, let me pay, then he would watch it so I was free to carry on shopping. It was crystal clear that they had not faced with this situation so far.

Numerous charities and research groups have been saying this through out the pandemic; the disabled community are being left behind. Article after article has stated how disabled people have reported feeling overlooked, forgotten, isolated, ignored. Just today there was a piece on how two York Councillors were not allowed to vote on accessible parking in their area as by being disabled they had a prejudice – madness!

Freedom day has come and gone, yet now things have reopened I’ve found that actually I’m running into more restrictions that affect my disability than prepandemic – for example in the same service station they wouldn’t open up the disabled toilets as they didn’t have a designated staff member free to monitor them. They had a member of staff a few feet away though in the ladies directing women into cubicles.

While it may sound like I’m riled up about not very much it’s not something im going to let slide. I don’t by any means think that the staff in the shop should have magically have transfigured a chocolate bar into a basket but they could have offered a bag for me to go around with or to have walked alongside me and helped. Either way I would have been and out in less than half the time if if id just had a little bit of aid. Which is something I’ll put in my letter when I write to them later this week.

Posted in may 2021

An Open Letter to Stagecoach & Arriva Bus

Dear Stagecoach & Arriva Bus,

I’m writing you an open letter as one of your disabled service users, and a frequent customer. I’ve had a few issue traveling before but today took the biscuit. Myself and my two young children were using your service to travel home from a hospital appointment. We flagged a Stagecoach bus down first. The driver pulled over, explained that he had already allowed two prams on, one was in the allocated buggy area and the other in the wheelchair space; neither parent wished to fold their pram down or move and off he went. I was more than slightly shocked as this is against your covid-19 policy which is listed on your site. I’ve screenshot it below, along with a picture taken from another of your buses which points out that it is law for a buggy to be moved from the wheelchair space should one need to board. Yet we were left in the rain.*

screenshot taken from stagecoach accessibility facts and question page focusing on wheelchair v prams.
Stagecoach Accessibility FAQS
Sign stating the law that wheelchairs have priority

Arriva Bus, it was one of yours that we flagged down next. This time, there was only one pram on board. Inexplicably the parent and pram had placed themselves in the wheelchair area despite the buggy section being free. When your driver asked them to move so we could board, they refused to move and the driver simply shook his head at me said “Sorry, love.” And drove off. This caused quite the stir at the bus stop, with others asking if this was something that happened often. It is quite disappointing to say that this is not the first time that has. Here is a screenshot from your own website Arriva of your policy for wheelchairs and prams.

Arrivas website instruction of priority of wheelchairs over prams
https://www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/conditions-of-carriageArriva Bus Carriage of Wheelchairs and pushchairs

Considering how much time has passed since Doug Paulley first brought his discrimination case to the supreme court back in 2012 over this matter I really expected this issue to be non-existent/on its way out. However experiencing it twice today within a matter of minutes is beyond a joke. How do you explain it to a four year old that two bus drivers didn’t want to follow the law? “Sorry we are not getting that bus either because the driver didn’t want to point out that it’s actually law for her to move over into the pram space. Despite it being his job.” Its disheartening, upsetting, discriminatory and lazy.

I would ask that both companies refresh your drivers memories on your own policies, and on the law. You may have stuck signs inside the buses but that is pointless if you are not going to act on them!

R. McDowall

*I want to acknowledge the kind stagecoach driver who was coming towards the end of a break and witnessed all of this. After waiting a few minutes and realising it was a while before anymore buses going in our direction would be there, cut his break short and drove over to us to let us on. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Posted in Archive, COVID-19, January 2021

Disability & Discrimination During Covid-19

As the world adjust to Covid-19, those of us shielding in the UK (and the thousands of other impacted disabled folk) have read multiple news report to see how it will impact us next. Reading through each new regulation brought in to ‘flatten the curve’ screamed ableism. Whilst I agree the new rules were needed there was no consideration for the disabled people in society. Even under tier three regulations when we were allowed to reemerge from our homes after months of shielding, the regulations had no adaptions for us. They were discriminatory at best; put yourself in our shoes and suddenly being faced with having no access to a public disabled bathroom, having to que to shop with no where to sit when your physically need to, a lack of parking because many disabled spaces are now being taken up by outdoor seating for pubs and restaurants. Many disabled people who were being interviewed for research by Inclusion London reported that they felt excluded and marginalised.

There was a fantastic article in The Guardian today, with an interview by paralympian Sophie Carrigill addressing inequality, specifically around how the needs of disabled people have been ignored throughout our multiple lockdowns; you can read the article here. I completely agree with her, my social media is full of adverts every couple of scrolls trying to encourage me to sign up to one fitness program or another. Even my gym is going live and notifying me, along with influencers left, right and centre. Yet I am aware of only two people currently who cater with workouts for the disabled. What really shocked me though was when I went to comment under the article on facebook. It was disability discrimination and frankly simply disability hate comment after comment. The completely ignorance of people was astounding.

Adaptive Workouts – Disability FriEndly

A fellow Dystonia warrior Gina, runs Adaptive Martial Arts (I’m meant to be trying this when I’m having a healthy run myself!), which you can do via Zoom currently. The second, is a woman I recently found on instagram who teaches dance via her wheelchair her handle is @katestanforth .

Disability Discrimination – The evidence

There has been a significant rise in negative attitudes towards people with disabilities since the start of the pandemic, or to be more specific since the start of the shielding and need to wear a mask. Its not hard to find evidence of this, its all over social media but also sadly there multiple news and police reports on the subject.

A report by the neighbourhood watch found that a recent survey carried out found 62% of deaf and disabled people organisations reported an increase in disability hate crime referrals on the previous weeks – this was just after it was announced face masks were to become mandatory. I myself have twice been yelled at for not having mask on, once whilst relocating my jaw and once yesterday whilst having a sip of a drink.

The findings from Inclusion London Briefing are really quiet troubling about the rise in Disability Hate Crime during the course of this pandemic, you can read it here. To name a few examples 1) A rise in hate crime by neighbours including a rise in hate crime against disabled children whilst they are at home by neighbours. 2) A rise in verbal abuse against disabled peoples and instances of being spat at whilst out of the home due to inaccurate perception the disabled person being a ‘virus spreader’. 3) An in increase in online hate crime, often on social media platforms, in which disabled have been that their lives are inferior and that they are taking up resources from non disabled people.

Disability Inclusion Post Lockdown

Where do we go from here? It’s going to take a lot of work and advocacy to get us to some level of equality – which the Inclusion London Briefing article briefly does touch on. I don’t know when that will happen and how we go about getting the public to flip their perception again. Part of the way that perhaps that can happen is that when we come out lockdown the regulations allows for disabled people to use our bathrooms when necessary, and doesn’t turn our much coveted gold dust parking spots into garden seating for pubs. But that would only be the start, we need a whole lot more to turn peoples attitudes around.