Flowerly Maua

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I smile recklessly and I love excessively. I live today knowing I have no other day until tomorrow. Now is my moment. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is a mystery, but today, today is my gift (present).

Monday, 7 December 2009

Wheelchair Vs Pushchair

I use London buses every now and again, and today I learnt something new. A normal London bus has space for 1 wheel chair, and 2-3 baby pushchairs depending on size.

So, this afternoon I'm in a bus, and this mother boards the bus with a cute baby who was fast asleep. A few bustops later, a lady on a wheelchair stops the bus. The bus driver yells for the lady with the baby to either get out of the bus or fold her pushchair. We all started talking to each other at the same time, more like 'is that right?, can u believe that? The woman stood her ground and said NO. The bus driver switched of the bus engine and demanded she gets out of the bus to give room for the wheelchair user. She said No.

We stuck there for a good 7-10 minutes and another bus came. The wheelchair user boarded it.

We were all left wondering whether some people are more equal than others. When I got home, I was so upset with the driver that I had to get an explanation, and guess what I found this from a bus operator website:

There are specific legal requirements placed on bus operators regarding the carriage of wheelchairs. The law requires all new buses (since 1999) to be wheelchair accessible, and lays down precise details of the dimensions and features of bus construction to allow wheelchairs, up to a certain size to be carried on buses.

There is no legal requirement regarding buses providing for the carriage of prams, buggies, or any “baby or toddler transport device”.

The primary reason for there being a wheelchair space on buses is to allow wheelchair users to travel on the bus.

Our policy can be summarised as –

wheelchairs have priority;
if the wheelchair space is not required for a wheelchair, anything/one else can occupy the space; but only on the understanding that they vacate the space if it is subsequently required for a wheelchair.

This means that whatever is occupying the wheelchair space, be it standing passengers, passengers sitting on the “tip-up” seats located in the wheelchair space, suitcases, bulky luggage or any baby or toddler transport device (buggy/pushchair) etc, has to be moved out of the wheelchair space to make way for a wheelchair if a wheelchair user subsequently wishes to board. Thus whatever is in the wheelchair space has to be capable of being moved (and safely stored in the luggage rack or elsewhere) when required.

This policy has been in place unchanged since the advent of wheelchair accessible buses some 9 years ago and all wheelchair accessible buses display 3 signs shown below which clearly state the requirements.

But to wake a sleeping baby, seriously whoever set this policy has no children.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the disabled, but an innocent child....


Darius Stone said...


For me this is a no-brainer. Waking up a sleeping baby and managing the inconvenience can never be equated to the need for accessibility.

I personally know people who've risked their lives by chaining their wheelchair to a moving London bus to earn the right to use public transport like everyone of us.

The issue here is that the mother and baby have options - a person in a wheelchair does not. Like your research shows, the law is crystal clear on the right to accessible public services for the disabled unless it means waking up the dead.

Those who feel uncomfortable about the inconvenience of waking up a child should try the inconvenience of living in a wheelchair.

joyunspeakable said...

ok wanted to add my voice on it but clearly DS has convinced me otherwise

Darius Stone said...

LOL! Joyunspeakable.

Please feel free to air your views. Mine was simply to highlight the vanity of us mere mortals in taking for granted the priviliges we have in life - like that of having the ability to get on a bus without having to resort to threatening to use the disability discrimination act to do what 99% of passengers in the bus can do.

The driver may have seemed anally retentive to many, but even he knows how black and white the law is on this one. Convenience (in this case that of not waking up a sleeping child) can never be equated to the right for a disabled person to access public services, an inalienable human right that all of us enjoy and is so often taken for granted.

SisBigBones said...

I have to wonder how the bus is designed, and why only one person can use the wheelchair accessible space? The buses in the US are legally required to be wheelchair accessible too, and they have enough space for at 4 - 6 people to use.

I agree with DS...the driver had to choose between convenience and the law. Perhaps he should have tried to explain the law (nicely) to the lady. That might have made a difference.

Mo said...

Driver should have been nicer about it. You dont yell at people like that. The mother probably felt she'd lose face by giving in to such blatant rudeness.

Nonetheless yeah, accessibility for the differently-abled trumps.

Maua said...

Guys, thanks for making me see this. I work in a hospital where Equality and Diversity issues have been hammered in, but I guess I saw it differently.

London buses run every 5-10 minutes, if you miss one, there's one behind. I thought, mark me, I thought (thinking is fine, not doing) if I'm fighting for access to a service I'd expect fairness. Telling this lady to get out came out so bad, and considering the situation then, it didn't seem fair, it was more of special treatmet.

I do apologise to any hurt feelings.

KK said...

It is unfortunate that people with disabilities had to wait till nine years ago to be able to have guaranteed access to your bus system.

I liked a quote I heard in the movie 2012 - 'It is at the point when we stop fighting for one another that we lose our humanity.'

Shiko-Msa said...

Hey Maualicious.

Me thinks the yelling is the problem.

http://kewad.com/winmyexback/ said...

Hi, I work with Deaf and disabled people in London and it is really frustrating for anyone in a wheelchair to get on a bus. So many times disabled people have missed appointments and colleagues of mine have come in to work hours late, because bus after bus came in full and left them.
Just last week, TFL held a meeting to hear the views of Disabled people. About time too. One wheelchair space in a bus that has as many seats as London buses do is quite frankly, disgraceful.

Tanisha Hertzler said...

Yeah, this is the kind that will tear you apart. You don't know which is right and just. Providing a space for the disabled or for the women with babies? I just hope the law will be amended, and they also respect the right of those carrying babies while traveling in public vehicles. That is, without compromising the right of the disabled as well.

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