'I got a ticket to ride'
Well actually I haven’t unfortunately; it has been all over the news on the last few days that a nation wide free travel scheme has been launched for the elderly and people with disabilities.
On hearing the news about this a few months ago I was seriously excited, I will never be able to drive (legally) due to slight blindness issues, I caught myself day dreaming about all the places I could go to and be able to get on the bus without it costing me money. I’m quite well travelled for a blindy, Three or four times a year at least I go up to London ether socially or through the work I do with Girl Guiding UK, free bus travel when I reach my destination appeals. At the end of the day I’m a student anything free is good!
BUT it would appear there is a slight catch, well actually a series of small flaws in this remarkably good plan.
First off and possibly most crucially my new nation wide bus pass has not arrived, my old pass expired on the 31st of march ready and waiting for the new system to take over on the 1st of April but it cant because my new shiny bus pass has not arrived. After multiple phone calls with the local council, I have been reassured that my new pass is on its way and in the meantime my old pass is still valid for travel.
I’m also rather concerned about other murmurings I have heard stating that the new pass will only be valid after 9:30am. I no this is defiantly the case for elderly users but I am not sure if it applies to those with disabilities, I have also heard that my local council is taking a different stance to that of the rest of the UK on this issue. So really I have to wait for my bus pass to arrive before I will find out. The fact of the matter is that I have to get the 8:30am bus to get to college for 9am; if I have to pay for the privilege I shall not be impressed. I am aware that there are various other schemes available to get people with disabilities to there educational establishment of choice or workplace but the point is that my bus pass gives me independence and freedom which other schemes simply don’t.
I don’t know whether the local situation represents an accurate image of the rest of the country but Gosport where I am blogging from still has quite a few highly inaccessible busses. There are busses here that before you can get to the driver to wave your bus pass at him or her you have to clime a small flight of 3 or 4 steps. It is indeed a mountain of a bus and one I have fallen up before (yes that was a highly embarrassing incident in front of 100+ people). Furthermore if you are lucky enough to find an accessible bus the chances are that the priority seats are full of chavs and there are buggy’s parked in the wheelchair spaces.
The buggy thing is something that really annoys me, I understand the needs of people with children when trying to use public transport, but put simply a buggy can be folded and put in the rack a guide dog or wheelchair user cant. Sitting in a wheelchair space with a guide dog particularly is far safer for everyone involved, the dog is less likely to have a shopping trolley dropped on its head, (this has happened to my mums guide dog Ian) other passengers are less likely to trip over the dog, and in the event of sudden breaking the dog does not fly down the aisle of the bus. Yet when sitting in a space originally designed for wheelchair users and other people with disabilities, guide dog owners get funny looks or even sometimes asked to move by people who could with a little effort perhaps simply fold up there buggy.
So at the end of the day I’m not entirely convinced the national bus pass scheme is a 100% success it should give me greater freedom to travel, but people with disabilities will still be restricted by inaccessible vehicles and the bus timetable.
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