Dec 082019
 

I’m getting flak on Twitter for posting this:

The standard arguments are coming out – “parents should be allowed to use it unless required by a wheelchair user” “why didn’t you ask staff / passenger to shift” and then more unpleasant trolling. A near “Line” on Complaining Cripple Bingo – I spot:

    • *Claims disabled person only needs to ask and access obstructions will be removed*
    • “You have psychological issues”
    • “If only you had asked nicely” “You didn’t ask nicely enough”
    • *Provide incorrect or inappropriate adjustment* *Ignore disabled person explaining this*.
    • *Claims you weren’t actually negatively affected because you were able to work round the fail*
    • *Misrepresents what you said to discredit you and the validity of your complaint*

All of that, however, is a distraction. The wheelchair space must be kept clearRobin Allen QC put the argument particularly well, during the Firstbus case:

The case has in some parts being identified as being about competition between the rights of wheelchair users, and travellers with children and buggies. But we say that is not the right way to view it.

We do not say we do not suggest that parents traveling with buggies don’t have the need for assistance, or to be taken into account. We do not suggest that bus companies shouldn’t consider about the general public.

As it is, what we say, and we’ll go through this in detail of course in the submissions, is that we have a particular problem, wheelchair users, Mr. Paulley in particular; and we have been given a particular solution. And we do object to the solution to other problems being grafted on in some way that undermines the strength of the solution which we say parliament has given, through the various bits of legislation which are set out in the case.

Non-disabled people being allowed to occupy the wheelchair space until required seems like a very reasonable preposition. But the reality is different. The constant dread of having to potentially fight to get on the train and into the space; the likely snidey comments from other passengers; objections to me inconveniencing them and so on is too much; especially on top of all the other extra hassle disabled people experience trying to use the railway.

LNER’s policy on this is pretty clear. From their Azuma leaflet:

Reiterated on LNER’s website:

Prams and buggies

We’re very happy for prams to be on our trains, just as long as you make sure they’re folded at all times and stored like any other item of luggage.

Be careful not to put prams in wheelchair spaces as this might be needed later in the journey by another customer.

Sign: "Please keep this space clear for wheelchair users"And in the wheelchair spaces themselves.

LNER policy, as told to me repeatedly by a director, is that when not in use by a disabled person these spaces MUST be kept clear, and that LNER staff MUST enforce this. Sadly, however, LNER staff do not enforce it.

There were 593 seats on the train I caught today, and 2 wheelchair spaces. 2 chances for wheelchair users to get on the train. 0.3% of the chance of a non-wheelchair user.

They are wheelchair spaces. If parents need their own spaces, then I support them in getting them. But please do not abuse the spaces specifically and solely designed and placed for wheelchair users.

Sep 062019
 

In July I attempted to catch the Caledonian Sleeper to Aberdeen. I failed because they hadn’t stowed the upper bunk in the accessible cabin, despite multiple attempts to do so.

In the middle of a discussion with the guard as to what to do (as a disabled person suddenly without accommodation hundreds of miles from home) I was interrupted by Euston Assistance staff member “Paul”. He repeatedly barracked me, in front of another passenger, for failing to meet him at the station mobility assistance meeting point. (I had specified to meet me at the lounge, which I visited for the shower.)

I later complained about his attitude. Network Rail stated that all assistance users must meet at the assistance reception. I found that not credible given that Network Rail offer assistance entering the station – how can somebody get that assistance if they have to register at the assistance point in the station?

Network Rail then accused me of being abusive to the staff member.

I was astonished at this ad-hominem and unjustified attack. I have never been abusive to assistance staff, and I found the allegation abhorrent.

In the course of ensuing conversations, Network Rail accidentally released internal correspondence showing that it was Euston station manager Joe Hendry who had made the allegation:

their recollection was that they were approached by Mr Paulley who was very abusive to the member of staff. … He was told that we weren’t informed and then told our member od staff to go away …
We successful assist approximately 100k customers a year without incident and will not accept abusive behaviour from passengers and after this incident we have reviewed our processes and feel that we need to introduce the option of our staff to have access to body worn cameras to avoid situations like this or indeed just to get a record of what happened form their side.

(Typos in the original)

Joe Hendry, Station Manager, made the above allegations based solely on the account of the staff member involved, against my account and without seeking any third party evidence from e.g. the train manager whose conversation he interrupted.

I threatened libel action. Happily, I had the whole interaction recorded.

Transcript:

> Sleeper Manager: The managers up in Inverness. They say there’s two things they can do. They can can get you booked on the service another day and get you a taxi home.
> Mr Paulley: Taxi home to Wetherby, North Yorkshire?
> Sleeper Manager: Is that’s home for you?
> Mr Paulley: Yeah I came down from Wetherby specifically to do this tonight.
> Sleeper Manager: Oh OK.
> Paul: Mr Paulley?
> Mr Paulley: Yes?
> Paul: I’ve been waiting for.. (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah, I was up in the First Class Lounge. I was in the First Class Lounge.
> Paul: Yeah that’s OK, but I didn’t know where you are. (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah, I did tell them that I had booked assistance.
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: I told them that I was, when I phoned up to book assistance, I said “meet me at the first class lounge”.
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Well that’s not my fault, is it?
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah. I was where I said I would be when I booked assistance, which was the first class lounge. Now please leave me alone.
> Sleeper Manager: Or we can get you booked…

I don’t see how that can be characterised as “abusive”. Neither could Network Rail’s route manager, who eventually responded:

If this video is an accurate gauge of the tone of all the interactions you had with our staff at Euston on that day,then I do not think it shows evidence of “unprofessional behaviour” by our staff member. I equally do not think it shows evidence of you being “abusive.”
As a result having reviewed the available evidence, I would like to retract and apologise for, the use of the word “abusive” from the earlier response to you by Simon Evans. This descriptor is not supported by the evidence I have seen.

So much for staff needing body-worn cameras to protect them against malicious allegations made by members of the public. I shall continue to record such interactions to protect MYSELF from malicious allegations, particularly when senior station staff such as Mr Hendry swallow and relay staff accusations against contrary accounts and without seeking third party evidence.

Meanwhile the ICO responded on the use of body worn cameras, saying there would need to be a “clear and pressing social need” for such to be justified; and Network Rail’s Data Protection Officer stated there’s no current proposal to introduce such. And rail regulator Office of Rail and Road has considered my

point about Network Rail requesting that passengers report to the assistance reception desk at Euston station when they have booked, or require to book assistance, even though their current DPPP states their assistance is available to help passengers entering any of their managed stations. … As part of the policy approval process we will ensure this details exactly what assistance is available at Euston station and how to get it, thus eliminating the inconsistency in the information you have identified.

I caught the Sleeper again on Monday. I booked assistance to meet me at the shower lounge, which didn’t happen. I therefore went to the registration point, where staff were not expecting me, despite my booking. Staff asked me to wait 20 minutes, which I did whilst 5+ staff hung around and chatted amongst themselves, to the exclusion of passengers waiting for assistance. They eventually asked me to make my own way to the platform, where station staff would assist me onto the train. Station staff didn’t turn up, so the train staff helped me on.

I think the learning points of this are:

  1. Maybe don’t bother booking assistance for the Sleeper at Euston, they are so dilatory it may be easier simply to ignore them and rely on train staff. Booking simply resulted in extra stress, being shouted at and libeled in my case, to no benefit.
  2. Take a camera, record and keep all the things, because some staff evidently make up allegations against passengers and managers unquestioningly accept station staff’s allegations without seeking corroboration.

All extra stress only experienced by disabled people with assistance needs…

easyJet mauls wheelchair

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on easyJet mauls wheelchair
Jan 022019
 

A guest blog by my excellent co-campaigner and friend Esther. Please share awareness of this and bring pressure on easyJet to do the decent thing.

Just before Christmas I went on a phenomenal holiday to Egypt.

On the way home, it was ruined by Easyjet who messed up the boarding at Hurghada so I was carried on to the plane last (it’s supposed to be first) in a totally humiliating fashion, meaning other passengers had to move and I was holding up the plane. Then, it got worse; they smashed up my travel wheelchair. Now, they’re refusing to fix or replace it as they say the ‘Montreal Convention’ limits how much they can pay to fix ‘baggage’. Thing is, it’s not baggage; it’s my mobility. It’s my way of getting around. It’s an object of freedom. And they smashed it up so surely they should put it right?

The chair had been carefully wrapped in packing plastic by my assistant, but when I picked it up, someone had tried to force it out of the plastic (rather than either leaving it for me to sort OR cutting it) putting enormous forces through the brackets which hold the backrest to the seat. Before I even got near it, when it was still on the concrete, the man driving the ‘ambulift’ (thing that takes wheelchair using passengers off planes) said ‘that looks totally wrong’ because the backrest was bent, handles at 45 degree angles etc.

The ‘chair is an Icon A1. It’s adjustable and custom to my needs. The specialist seating I need used to fit on it, but not it’s so bent it’s unusable. I can’t travel anywhere, and when my power chair is having work done on it or something, I’ve no mobility at all as this ‘chair is my travel/backup one. It had served me so well – enabling me to travel across the world, go diving with amazing fish at a disabled diving school, go out and go in the sea… and yet Easyjet couldn’t get it through an airport without destroying it.

Easyjet, it’s on you; please get me a suitable replacement or more likely a whole new chair as the frame itself has been bent.

Please share – it’s simply unacceptable for companies to smash up mobility devices. They’re not ‘baggage’ in the usual sense.

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