By Steve Ledbrook
I was hoping to blog about the launch in Parliament of the ‘Breaking Point’ report into the housing crisis [launched by Muscular Dystrophy UK yesterday] but my day wasn’t to the script at all.
I left the train from Weston-Super-Mare on time but once again the disabled loo was out of order. This was due to the door being off the hinges. They wanted to put me in First Class for the loo but this was not possible as my powered wheelchair is too wide. Anyway, the loo in First Class isn’t wheelchair accessible.
I contacted the First Great Western Disability and Inclusion Manager, Neil Craig, who got me to email what had happened so he could report it to the engineers who would hopefully send someone at Paddington Station to fix it, hopefully before the train left again. The train manager was so helpful and kept checking I was ok and apologising.
I got to Paddington, desperate for the loo after my two and a half hour journey. The train manager got me off quickly. I arrived at the accessibility office at Paddington to be offered a small home made cake from one the staff members.
So it eventually became time for me to leave but thought I’d go to the new Changing Places loo at Paddington. All good but then during a wheelchair transfer I missed my seat, falling on the floor and smacking the right side of my face with my cheek bone being the main contact to the floor.
I pulled the emergency cord and a staff member arrived outside within minutes. I crawled across the floor to open the door as I had locked it (a Radar key door) and wasn’t sure if they could open the door if it’s locked. I didn’t know how I was going to get back up into my chair. Luckily as its a Changing Places loo it has an electric bed for the shower which drops down near enough to the floor, so the staff were able to get me on that and bring me up level to transfer back to my chair. A police officer also came round to help and insisted on calling an ambulance as I felt a little dizzy and sick.
An ambulance arrived five minutes later. I told them I had to get to Parliament for the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Muscular Dystrophy. They then took me into the ambulance (using the accessible ambulance lift) and said they would take me to Parliament and check me out on the way.
It took ages as due to a taxi demonstration it meant being stuck in lots of traffic. They got me through the gates security at Parliament. Talk about arriving in style! I will be thanking the London ambulance service for their kindness, understanding and support.
I wasn’t able to focus 100% on the meeting but Trailblazer Fleur Perry was fantastic with her questioning.
I then left Parliament over two hours before my train was due to leave Paddington. I usually catch the bus now in London, but due to the taxi demonstrations the bus times were all over the place and it was also pouring with rain. I would say I probably had to wait for 45 minutes in total at different bus stops. I found the buses easy to stop and the drivers were polite and helpful.
It took me over two and a half hours to get to Paddington. I had missed the train but their was no problem getting me on the next one. The train manager was excellent again on both trains on the way home. The one from Bristol to Weston made announcements which included jokes and local knowledge of each stop. He read the announcements slowly and clearly.
I was very glad to get home but my face is very sore. I think I will get a lovely bruise but I’m too determined to let it keep me down. I really wrote this blog to highlight how much people’s attitudes are so much better when using public transport. All the staff during my journeys were brilliant, polite, understanding and caring. Without these people I couldn’t come to London independently on my own