Friday, March 17

A travel perspective.

So lets get straight into this blog thing. Last week we went to a family wedding in Bristol. Rather than drive for hours on end we decided to fly. Overall it was a good experience even with the wheelchair, but coming back Newcastle Airport deserves a big fat raspberry for its total lack of thought when it comes to disabled parking... here is the letter of complaint I wrote, Ive included the expletives as well.

"I flew from Newcastle last week and was appalled at the woefully inadequate provisions made for disabled parking at the airport.

The problems started after I dropped my husband off with our bags and 2 year old son at the terminal thinking this would be easier. How wrong I was. Firstly there is a pay on foot system that is designed for men at least 6ft tall. Try getting your money in when you are in a wheelchair and paraplegic, impossible, so I had to ask someone to do it for me. I realised there is a help telephone, but you still have to get out your car to get to it which isnt much help if you cant walk.

After parking the car I waited for the bus to transfer me to the terminal, only to find that even with the front of the bus lowered it is totally inaccessible for wheelchair users as there is 6 inch step where the bus is not level with the kerb. This is because no one has bothered to ensure that the kerbs are built up to meet the bus. It was only through the helpfulness of the driver that I was able to get on and off. He got out and pulled me up onto the bus and the got me off again.

However coming back I was not so fortunate.
Again, I had to tell the driver 'I cant get up there', so he offered to pull me up. Its not as if I had any choice is it? The thing is Im a dead weight these days, I cant just say hang on Ill just hop out while we sort this out. Im really reliant on someone getting it right first time, its totally my life in their hands. So he grabbed the back bar on my chair and pulled me up, but did so really slowly so the front tips forward and my front wheels slide under the bus. Im just hanging there holding on for fucking life I tell you!! Then he lets go and I slam forward just to be caught by a large guy who's stepped forward to help. Thank God all I can say. So Im sat there with my face all squashed up against his chest having a good look at his shirt and the inside of his jacket. Is there no fucking dignity left in my life?!! Its just as well I have a low level spinal cord injury because anyone with a higher level of injury would have just been flat on their face. As it is I have pulled all the muscles in my left arm and wrist which isnt much fun when you use a wheelchair all day.

So how acceptable do you think all this is? Personally I believe that in 2006 it is totally unacceptable to treat anyone like this. I am absolutly furious about the whole thing. I am not a sack of potatoes to be heaved around with total disregard for my well being. It is both humiliating and degrading. There are numerous health and safety issues for both the driver and the passengers. Im sure that the drivers have not had wheelchair handling training. This parlous state of affairs needs to be put right with immediate effect. If you are unable to raise the kerbs, then you should move the disabled parking to the front of the building, or you could provide taxis for wheelchair users. Either way I can assure you this is an accident waiting to happen and had I fallen I would have been compelled to sue the airport for failing to provide facilities as advertised.

I have no intention of letting this matter drop. It seems to me that your failure as an airport to provide access is in direct contravention of the Disability Discrimination Act. Since 1 October 2004 service providers, in this case Newcastle Airport, are required to take reasonable steps to tackle physical features of premises, like steps or narrow doorways, that prevent, or make it unreasonably difficult for, a disabled people to access their services. I cannot see with the current state of affairs you are doing this as I was unable to access the airport without the goodwill of another."

So we shall see what happens here. Thanks Newcastle for leaving a bitter taste over the journey.

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