What can disabled people expect from 2017 after the dire year that was 2016 ?



I was trying to think of something positive to say about 2016 for anyone, let alone disabled people. Each of us will I suspect have some highlights however bad we feel last year treated us. But to live thru a year when the British people inexplicably voted for Brexit (a really bad move for disabled people) and somehow the good folk of the USA saw fit to protest at, well I’m not sure, and vote Donald Trump into the Whitehouse, it was for many of us a genuinely aweful time.

So I was musing on what a blogger with disabilities might say in some kind of new year messaging when I came across the piece linked to below, by Martyn Sibley in the always readable Disability Horizons. It’s a balanced look at 2017 and what preceded it. I was struck by the fact that Martyn, recently voted in the top three of most influential disabled people in the country for 2017, almost casually made reference to the way disabled people have suddenly become a “burden” in our society, as painted by the media and some political parties who continue to seek to deflect from their own failings by attacking easy targets.

Should we be so relaxed almost about changing attitudes to disability and those who might need the support of benefits ? Can we continue to allow society and certain parts of the media to have a relatively free run in attacking disabled people with outrageous sound bytes that rely on scaremongering rather than fact and seek to feed on and off a so called “popularist” view of life that is harsh and based heavily on an approach that says “me and my family are healthy, comfortably off and decent types so we don’t care about anyone else” ?

Well Martyn Sibley and Disability Horizons won’t settle for sitting back and allowing the media in particular to paint their biased and politically influenced picture of disabled people. Neither should organisations representing disabled people and trust me that’s easy to say but less easy to action. These are hard times. Can anyone afford to be choosy who you take funds from to keep the doors open ? Can any local charity of any description really risk offending people in authority by speaking out against their actions / decisions ?

What do you think ? Well my ¬†view is that we cannot sit back and let the attacks of 2016 be repeated in 2017. Disabled organisations can be forthright and powerful without having to be tagged as left or right wing or supportive of any given political party of media outlet. We need to use our collective and factual life experience to counter the negative headlines, to explain, to emphasise, to SHOUT about the value brought into our lives by a diverse society that celebrates not denigrates “difference”.

Here’s what Martyn has to say and it’s another really good read.

Cheers, Mark

Powerchair versus the Tube !!

The Tube
The Tube step free access

I recently went on a London Tube adventure and yes it was a wee bit hairy at times as I ventured on to TfL’s underground network for the very first time. I had always thought using the Underground whilst on business or social outing to the capital a bit of a non-starter. However, the arrival of two new new lines…the Jubilee and the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) when used alongside the spattering of step free stations across the network, actually gives you scope to get a long way on the tube, fast !

TfL’s step free station Underground map is your starting point. I’m geeky and there are a few maps that can greatly help the mobility impaired traveller. I actually enjoyed pouring over the main access maps which not only show you the totally step-free stations, but then add in those where you can get into the station via a lift, and then use a technically “on-demand” ramp with the help of station staff. There is even a guide to how large the gap is between platform and tube train….this is important as I know some wheelchair users are a bit hesitant about taking on the stations where that “gap” is at the largest…..tho in truth still manageable I’d guess, particularly with athletic shoulder power or pa assistance !

I loved travelling on the Jubilee line all the way from Wembley Park direct to Canada Waters station near Deptford, and then one day when things were incredibly busy thanks to the London Marathon we actually got on a train at Canada Waters going the wrong way to the end of the line at Stratford, just so we could get on the train going northwards when it wasn’t crammed to bursting with people hanging on for dear life !!

We had time to experiment but it is a fact that if your a wheelchair user travelling the Underground at peak times it has to be a bit iffy, even when you know that list of step free stations in your sleep. But if you can plan your travel to avoid the very peak periods then step free really does mean what it says and my rear wheel drive Salsa coped admirably, albeit that getting off the train does entail a slight “bounce” as you hit the platform but most will handle that with no issues. The TfL staff were great, nothing was too much trouble as we asked some dorky questions about lines and stations.

The map shown will be hard to read as its a screenshot but there are free to download maps here:

and the specific step free Underground map is here : http://ow.ly/KAwf3006MHl

For me this was an incredibly enabling experience. It’s only a tantalising experience tho as most stations, particularly in central London remain inaccessible. But when you add in Waterloo, St Pancras and soon, Vauxhall, to the list of accessible stations it becomes more possible to use the tube as a kind of integrated but oh so carefully planned part of your travel…..alongside the entire fleet of red buses of course. You can speed up some journeys across the city, and journey out to the Olympic Park, Greenwich for the O2, and several places to the West of the city. When you add in that now the fleet of water buses on the Thames is mostly accessible it’s an improving picture which will be helped even further when the all-accessible-stations Crossrail arrives !

Maybe tube travel isn’t for everyone and I had to steel myself a couple of times as my infamous claustrophobia was challenged in a couple of packed trains but I managed it and yes, loved doing what most take for granted in having ready access to the Underground.

Cheers, Mark