A group of young disabled people launch their all party parliamentary group report on issues affecting them. Katie Razzall was there for Channel 4 News.
Since 1995, legislation has been in place to prevent disabled people being less favourably treated in our society. But theory, even legal theory, is one thing, practice quite another.
Trailblazers, the young disabled wing of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, have investigated what the problems still are and made recommendations on what would make a real difference to their lives.
For those of us involved in No Go Britain, No Fly Britain and the Legacy to Stand On series, sadly, this is familiar territory.
Their report includes subjects we have covered in depth: broken ramps on buses and trains, the problem of buggies in the wheelchair space, inaccessible stations and the hazards of flying – damaged wheelchairs with little compensation available, for one.
Steve Ledbrook, a Trailblazer from Weston-super-Mare told me improvements to transport would be the one thing that would make a big difference to his life.
“I love using trains, and they have improved. But we need more,” he said. Another of the campaigners, Sarah Croft from Paignton, agreed: “Transport makes a big difference, being able to get from A to B without hassle.”
And 22-year old Vivek Gohil from Leicester told me he has not flown since he was 15 when he went to Portugal on holiday and his chair was damaged.
“I’d like to fly in my wheelchair,” he said.
“If disabled people could sit in their own chair on board, we’d feel safe.”
Their report talks of everything from transport to tourism, employment to education and housing. For 27-year old Sarah Croft, that’s the point: “It highlights how basic things are. My non-disabled peers can move around with no issues.
“Young people starting out need to build their careers and their lives. My friends who aren’t disabled have already moved jobs two or three times since university. I haven’t because, when you’re disabled, there are so many others things to consider – accessible accommodation, whether there’s transport to get you to the new place of work, portability of care.”
The MP, Paul Maynard – disabled himself – kicked off proceedings telling them how much their all party group has achieved since it started a year and a half ago.
Nobody can say disabled people have not made their voices heard in parliament. Paul Maynard MP
“Nobody can say disabled people have not made their voices heard in parliament,” he said. David Blunkett MP told them: The biggest thing Paul and I can ever do is just being here and demonstrating it can be done.”
That’s the vision of these Trailblazers. They are young and determined to make a difference and to live their lives to the full. Their report is already making a difference, they say. As a result of their recommendations on airlines, the airlines have set up a working group with the disabled sector to look at standardising their service.
Paul Maynard MP told me: “This is about how people look and see things. A lot of it isn’t costly. For example, we’re asking why do airlines have different policies when it comes to them taking apart a wheelchair, a complicated piece of kit? We want the airlines with better policies to explain them to the ones we feel are less good, so they can learn and improve.”
RAIL AND LONDON UNDERGROUND
Make train travel a more independent experience, for example electric ramps when feasible
Improve Assisted Passenger Reservation System
Adequately trained staff on platforms to assist disabled people
BUSES AND TAXIS
Give drivers regular and effective disability awareness training
New buses should be fitted with extra spaces for wheelchair users, mobility scooter users and buggies to remove conflict
Check and test bus and taxi ramps regularly
Employers and government work teogether to raise profile of disabled employees to show disability not a barrier
Local authorities and estate agents should retain better records of properties that have been adapted and are available for renting or buying
Encourage airlines to understand the importance of personal wheelchairs
Airlines default position should be that disabled passenger can travel to the aircraft in their own wheelchair in all but exceptional circumstances
Airlines should take responsibility for damaged equipment in full