Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Supertram Problem Exists Worldwide.

Following my post yesterday about people not giving up 'priority seats' on Sheffield Supertram for disabled people, I have found some interesting links online.

I was reading Man on Crutches on Train with Camera and, about 2/3 of the way down, some words sounded familiar - I realised they were linking to a comment I made on the subject last April!

That article actually has some really interesting thoughts and information, which I want to look at in more detail when I have the chance. And it is talking about this blog, named People Who Sit In The Disability Seats When I'm Standing On My Crutches, where the creator took photos of those very people. This blog has not been posted on for nearly a year now, sadly. Though I could create my own alternative for Sheffield trams!

Another article I've found is The iPhone Vigilante, about the blog mentioned above. And I also found a discussion board message on the same issue, but in Singapore. This thread is another that I will havfe to read in better detail some other time, but one new idea I got from it is to suggest to Stagecoach that the messages announced through the tram system could include one about giving up your seat for someone who needs it more.

There is a discussion here, a yahoo discussion and a Facebook group, for those of you so inclined!

There will definitely be more happening on this issue, watch this space! (well, this blog at least).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Disabled Access to Stagecoach Supertram in Sheffield

Something has bewildered me for some time. It's that normally, when I'm on a bus in Sheffield, if none of the Priority seats are free, other passengers usually offer me a seat when they see my walking stick or crutches. However, when I take the tram, this virtually never happens. I have no idea why tram passengers don't do this when bus passengers do.

Offering me a seat is immensely helpful. Standing up for any period of time, even short periods, causes me pain. Balancing on a moving vehicle with only one free hand, or no free hands (depending on whether I'm using one or two crutches) is really difficult, when my balance is already bad. And being able to sit down, even for a short journey, helps to delay the inevitable exhaustion, which means I can hopefully get a bit more done, wherever I'm going.

Since I had surgery a month ago, I have needed to sit down more. Standing up causes me much more pain, and even the slightest things tire me out.

So, this morning, I emailed Supertram about this, saying:
Dear Supertram,

I use the buses and trams regularly in Sheffield, and whenever I take a bus, if there are no free seats, I am nearly always offered a seat when someone sees that I am using crutches or a walking stick. However, when I take the tram, I am virtually never offered a seat.

I do not know why this is the case, but people on buses seem to have a lot more respect for the 'Please give up this seat if a disabled person needs it' type signs than they do on trams.

It makes my tram journeys very difficult and painful, and is putting me off using them at all.

I was wondering if there is anything you feel you could do to help with this situation. I am obviously aware that there are people with invisible disabilities who would have every right to keep their seat, but that cannot be the case for everybody who stays in the 'disabled priority' seats when there are disabled people clearly struggling with standing.

The first things that come to my mind in terms of what you can do, are awareness raising campaigns on the trams themselves, and more proactive action from the conductors in this area.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the situation,

The response I received was, frankly, awful. They are taking no responsibility for their role and show no acknowledgement at all of my concerns.

They say:
I was concerned to hear that you find it difficult to use the priority seating if another passenger is already there. In the first instance I would suggest that you politely asked the passenger if they would leave the seat to enable you to use it . I agree with your point that some passengers may have an invisable inpairement [sic] but the seats are clearly marked and there should be no problem in the majority of cases. Experience has shown that not all passengers who warrant the use of the priority seats wish to do so and although I would expect conductors to assist when requested they will not always do so automatically. I will pass on your comments re awareness training but feel that the best way to "educate" able bodied passengers to give up the seats is if they are asked to do so by other passengers.

It's a cop-out. I feel, more strongly than ever, that they need to look at the 'Priority seats for disabled people' signs and see that whatever they currently have up is not doing the job, as people are paying no attention. There are only a few available seats which don't involve going up steps, so these need to be seriously prioritised. In addition, training the ticket inspectors in assisting disabled passengers to find a seat could be an effective way of combating the problems.

Interestingly, I was sent the link to this government consultation on Improving Bus Passenger Services today, and learned that:
7.9 We are seeking views on further ways to ensure stricter enforcement of the duties of drivers, inspectors and conductors with regard to disabled people. Conduct Regulations set out the duties of drivers/ conductors of regulated public service vehicles with respect to passengers in wheelchairs and other disabled persons. DfT’s guidance specifies that passengers who are not disabled but are occupying the wheelchair space could be asked to move to allow a passenger in a wheelchair to board, provided that there is room for the passenger to move elsewhere on the bus and the seating and standing capacity will not be exceeded. Drivers are also required to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their passengers.

7.10 The Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations stipulate that there should be clear signage for the priority seat and the wheelchair space on the bus. The Department is committed to delivering transport that works for everyone. We have therefore been considering how enforcement of these regulations can be improved. Stricter compliance with the Conduct Regulations would go a long way in ensuring that the wheelchair space is available for a passenger in a wheelchair.

7.11 We therefore seek views on measures to ensure stricter compliance with the regulations in general, particularly on whether introduction of financial sanctions against operators who persistently breach any aspect of the regulations, would be useful.

Now, while this regulation is regarding buses, the trams in Sheffield provide a very similar service, and should take account of the current regulation and proposed changes. My safety is certainly compromised when I have to stand on their vehicles.

I don't know what steps to take next. I was hoping that a response from Stagecoach would be helpful and open to looking at improvements. However, their huge failure to take what I have requested into account has really disappointed me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We Are Women Too

This video is of Eleanor Lisney and Michelle Daley, talking at Million Women Rise at the weekend, about disabled women's lives. About the reality of domestic violence committed against disabled women, including individual women's accounts, and about Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after being unable to get help against the abuse and intimidation they were suffering. About refuge provision - scarce at the best of times, and accessible provision being almost non-existent. About the particular vulnerability of disabled women when it comes to sexual assault and brutality in care homes or by carers, and the difficulties in reporting and being heard, as well as barriers to accessing services. And about multiple identities, and how disabled women can experience multiple discrimination from within the disability movement, other women, the community and society.
"It is about raising the voices of our disabled sisters. It is also about ensuring our recognition within this struggle for human rights. [...] We all have a responsibility to ensure that disabled women are recognised, and respected, as equals within this struggle, and all our voices to be heard. We are women too."

[Edited to add - There are transcripts of these speeches here, thank you so much to Eleanor, one of the speakers, for letting us know, and to Felix Gonzalez for making the videos and doing the transcription. More transcripts of speeches of the day will be published at in due course.]

Monday, March 08, 2010

Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum

Asylum Aid has created a Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum.

The way that we are treating these women is appalling. Completely ignoring the trauma they have suffered, we are locking them up or forcing them to beg and sleep rough, without support, healthcare or money.

Asylum Aid have created this video.

Every single woman from Asylum Aid on Vimeo.

They say,
We believe a change of culture designed to produce a genuinely gender sensitive asylum system is urgently needed to ensure that women seeking asylum receive a comparable standard of treatment to women in similar situations who are settled here already.

There is also a campaign briefing available, and they are campaigning so that all member states of the European Union to adopt gender guidance so that women's asylum claims will be dealt with consistently.

(cross-posted at The F Word)

Sunday, March 07, 2010


I've had a headache for a week. Constant. I've been taking painkillers following surgery, then I've had a horrendous mouth infection, so taking more painkillers for that. So I couldn't understand why I still had a headache!

So I read about painkiller headaches. That sounded right. Taking painkillers can cause headaches. So I read, you're supposed to stop taking the painkillers to make the headache go away. But I'm not taking the painkillers for the headache, so what to do? I can't stop taking them or my mouth may explode and my foot fall off (not that I'm prone to exaggeration).

But then I read that you only get painkiller headaches if you are taking the painkillers for the headache. If you are taking them for some other reason, they don't happen. And I am, I'm taking them for my leg and my mouth.

So, I still have a headache and no idea why. I initially thought it was a pre-menstrual one, then it carried on post-menstrually. Then I thought it was the toothache causing it. It could still be I suppose.

I don't know. I'm just moaning.