Transport hell for disabled people The Disability Discrimination Act was introduced over 21 years ago and yet disabled people still face difficulties whether trying to travel by bus, train or aeroplane. Just this month, there have been numerous reports in the press: Earlier this month, Paralympian Anne Wafula-Strike talked about how she was forced to wet herself on a CrossCountry rail journey because the disabled toilet was out of order. Although the staff knew about the situation and offered to let her off the train to use the disabled toilet at the next stop, when they got to that station there was no one on the platform to help and by the time she reached the next stop it was too late. In a backwards move, Southern Rail announced that disabled passengers would have no “cast-iron guarantee” that assistance would be available, when previously there were 33 stations across its network at which disabled passengers could turn up and be guaranteed help getting on or off a train. Some progress was made recently for disabled bus travellers by Doug Paulley, who won his Supreme Court case after a dispute with a woman with a buggy who would not move out of the wheelchair space for him. The ruling means that bus drivers will have to do more to assist wheelchair users who want to get on their bus, and help ensure that non-wheelchair users move from the allocated space. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it has not been made a legal requirement, so there is still a long way to go before disabled bus passengers can be confident about being able to travel by bus as and when they want to. Disabled aeroplane travellers have also been affected by inadequate action. BBC journalist Frank Gardner tweeted about being stuck on an empty Easyjet plane for half an hour after it landed at Gatwick as the wheelchair assistance didn’t turn up, and he says this is not a problem that just happens in the UK. Easyjet have been fined by a French court more than £50,000 for refusing to allow a disabled passenger to board for “security” reasons, although they did not explain exactly what these were, and because he was “unaccompanied”. These are just some examples of recent stories in the news, but we constantly hear about the issues disabled people have when trying to travel. The Government has set itself the mission of halving the disability employment gap by 2020, clearly a welcome objective in tune with the Prime Minister’s vision of “a country that works for everyone.” However, this litany of transport nightmares suffered by disabled travellers exposes a fundamental flaw in the Government’s approach to work and disability. What these stories reveal is a transport system that simply can’t be relied upon to enable a disabled person to make a door to door journey with any confidence. In their joint Ministerial forward to the consultation “Improving Lives The Work Health and Disability Green Paper”, Jeremy Hunt and Damian Green expressed a desire to “ensure everyone has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.” Until the Government includes a truly inclusive accessible transport system in its vision for health and work, and disabled people can set out on any given day, absolutely certain of arriving on time, unflustered and with dignity intact, their talents will sadly not be allowed to take them much beyond the front door.