Blog by TfA member Chris. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.
Clapham Junction is a busy and important transport hub in South London, and I’m pleased to say that it has step-free access to all platforms, and wheelchair ramps on every platform.
But lifts and ramps are not enough to make a station disabled-friendly. The attitude and behaviour of the station staff matter hugely.
Last weekend I had an extremely unpleasant experience at Clapham Junction Station. It was not my first experience of rudeness and unhelpfulness from Southern Railway staff at this station, but it was certainly the worst.
I’m a wheelchair user. I arrived at platform 15 on Saturday afternoon, and asked a member of staff on the platform for assistance with a ramp to board a train.
His response to my request was curt and unfriendly: “Next train“, with a jab of the finger in the direction of the track, and with that he disappeared.
In itself this small moment of rudeness was not surprising, it’s what I have got used to at Clapham Junction when I interact with Southern Railway staff. But then things got much worse.
The train pulled in and I positioned myself by the door with the wheelchair logo, as I wanted to be placed in the wheelchair space on the train.
The member of staff I had spoken to didn’t come with a ramp. I couldn’t see him until everyone had boarded, and then I saw that he was at the back of the train with the ramp. I waved to him. He refused to move. I pointed to the doors with the wheelchair logo. He shouted that I had to board at the back of the train (where there was no wheelchair space). Some of his colleagues told me that I had to get on at the back. I said no, I wished to travel in the wheelchair space. The man with the ramp did not budge, and kept gesturing me to come towards him.
I did not want to travel in a part of the train without a wheelchair space because I do not consider this a safe or comfortable way to travel, so we reached an impasse. The man with the ramp let the train go, without me onboard.
He then came over and addressed me angrily, and with a staggering level of rudeness, telling me I should have boarded exactly where he wanted me to. I told him that I had wanted to be placed in the wheelchair space, as that was the only safe place for me to travel.
He was not displaying a name badge. I asked him three times for his name. Three times he refused, and then he walked away briskly, refusing to communicate with me any further.
He then placed the ramp flat down on the platform, near the platform edge, for several minutes, perpendicular to the track, in such a way that customers could easily trip over it, and possibly even fall onto the tracks.
After this I encountered a second member of staff. He too was extremely rude to me when I explained that his colleague had refused to allow me to board the train where the wheelchair space was. He told me that I was obliged to board the train exactly where the platform staff had decided.
He also make this extraordinary statement: “If you don’t know the rules, you shouldn’t come here“. This statement was too bizarre and silly to argue with, but it was also an act of intolerable rudeness.
This second member of staff also refused to give his name, and was not showing a name-badge.
Later they put me onto a train, in the wheelchair space as I had requested at first, and I was able to make my journey at last.
Disabled people should be able to travel with the same ease, flexibility, safety and comfort as everyone else. But I find again and again that I come up against unhelpfulness, rudeness, ignorance and inflexibility when I want to travel on Southern Railway train services. I do not believe that this company takes its responsibility to its disabled customers at all seriously.
A great deal needs to change before train services are truly accessible, and before wheelchair users can use them without stress, distress and annoyance. Transport for All continues to campaign for full accessibility across all of London’s transport networks. Please join us if you would like to support our campaigns – you can find out here how to become a member.
Reblogged from the Transport for All website.