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.

Apr 272018
 

Pie chart: Taxi licensing authorities S167 list by April 2018 - No: 49% Yes: 51%

Download report

Pie chart: S167 grade of authorities, November 2017

A “new” law requiring taxi drivers not to discriminate against wheelchair users was commenced on 6th April 2017. Taxi drivers face £1,000 fines for refusing to take or help wheelchair users, or if they charge wheelchair users more. But the new law only takes effect if the local council has created a “designated list” of wheelchair accessible taxis.

Accessible taxis are an essential part of an inclusive society; especially given the extensive barriers disabled people face with other forms of transport.

The Department of Transport’s guidance states:

Section 167 of the Act (Equality Act 2010) permits, but does not require, LAs (Local Authorities) to maintain a designated list of wheelchair accessible taxis and PHVs (Private Hire Vehicles).
Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.

It recommended local authorities create their lists by October 2017.

I decided to find out what local authorities are planning to do in response to this. I submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 366 taxi licensing councils, and Transport for London (who administer taxi licensing on behalf of all the London boroughs) in April 2017 and in October 2017.

My report and data can be downloaded in full at the top of this page. It gives depressing results.

Boundary data:
Contains National Statistics data © Crown copyright and database right 2016
Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right 2016

Map of my data by Jeff Harvey of Transport for All shows which authorities have a S167 list (green), plan to produce one (yellow) or have no current plan to do so (red).

Only 51% of British taxi licensing authorities either had a list or have a plan to create one this financial year. It’s particularly bad in Scotland where only 28% are taking it up.

26% of authorities have actively decided not to work towards such a list at the moment.

In areas that don’t create a list, wheelchair users can continue to be overcharged. Even if they report it, the driver won’t face the legal penalty. Wheelchair users will continue to be disempowered.

Even where authorities have created a list, the law is not enforced. There are 30,298 wheelchair accessible hackney carriages licensed by the 119 authorities that have implemented S167 of the Act. Yet no driver has faced enforcement action under the legislation, one year after it was commenced.

It is disappointing that many councils are undermining the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation, by their failure to undertake the required office work. Their inaction means that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity.

In much of the UK, councils have no clear plan to implement the anti-discrimination law.


All is not lost.

Pressure and publicity from disabled people and their allies has already made some authorities decide to implement the law. For example, of the seven dissident councils contacted by the Disability News Service following my initial research results, five councils (Oldham, Epping Forest, Stratford-on-Avon, Suffolk Coastal, and Waveney councils) changed their policy.

If your council has yet to commit to implementing this anti-discrimination legislation, (you can check in my data tables above) contacting them may well cause them to change their tune. Your contact point would be the councillors for your area on the District or Unitary council, or your London Assembly member. You can use WriteToThem to identify and contact the relevant ones, by putting your postcode in this box:


writetothem.com


Please use your own words, but you may wish to include some of the following points:

  • Taxis are essential for disabled people’s quality of life, especially given the barriers disabled people experience with other forms of transport.
  • Creating a list is a relatively minor bureaucratic procedure that sends a clear message that wheelchair users have the right to travel by taxi without discrimination.
  • The Government’s Statutory Guidance strongly recommends councils produce a list, because “without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra.
  • The licensing body should create a list even if all taxis licensed by them are wheelchair accessible. Simply stating “all the taxis we license are wheelchair accessible” doesn’t have the desired effect of putting taxi drivers under a legal duty to take wheelchair users and not to charge extra for doing so.
  • It is important to create a list even if there are very few accessible taxis. It is perhaps even more important that drivers of such taxis don’t discriminate against wheelchair users.

Fleur Perry has written a template letter which may be useful to inspire you in your message.

Additionally, you may choose to tweet your local council. Muscular Dystrophy UK suggest “Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people. Will you support the equality act and make your taxis accessible? #section167fail”

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