Prior to having Amy, my knowledge of wheelchair-accessible vehicles was very limited (and to a degree still is).
Until you are in our situation you perhaps don’t really have cause to think about it.
I had a teacher in high school who was a wheelchair user.
I remember seeing himself transfer into the driver's seat of his adapted car and fold his wheelchair into the back. (He was an incredible teacher by the way, in spite of all of the detentions gave me; and even taught my mum! RIP Mr Bean. Yes that was his real name).
This was literally my only experience of disability and travel other than seeing the resource/children with additional needs on their school buses in primary school.
We are fortunate enough to have a WAV (a wheelchair accessible vehicle).
Here in the UK if you received the high rate mobility component of DLA or PIP you are able to apply to use that money towards a suitable vehicle.
It’s more complex than this, of course, there can be huge deposits for which you can apply for grants… and not everyone is eligible for grants.
When you first start to look into getting a WAV it’s a daunting experience. There is so much information to take in, and so much research to do.
I always said I would never drive a big car. I am an anxious driver and feel safer in a little car.
So it has been a huge obstacle to overcome agreeing we need the van.
We now realise that Amy and her equipment are growing, and her health needs have increased too meaning more supplies coming out with us.
This means our next van needs to be bigger.
I am already filled with dread at the prospect however I do feel positive that it will enable us to go on more UK holidays in just one vehicle instead of two.
Recently a friend was going to meet us in town for a special event.
She had opted to take the bus with her wheelchair-user daughter.
She waited a long time for the bus and when it eventually arrived the driver said there was no room and drove off.
He didn’t check to see if there was any other option, and he offered no empathy.
My friend was understandably upset and I was infuriated for her. The reason they couldn’t board the bus was because there was a pram on and a wheelchair already.
I have since looked into this because I thought the rule was all prams have to be folded down for wheelchair users and that wheelchairs take priority.
I have since found out that most buses only allow one wheelchair user.
I understand that this is for health and safety reasons but what if two people were friends and wheelchair users?
They have to not get the bus together?
In my research I found the following:
“If a wheelchair space is occupied by standing passengers and luggage, you might not be able to allow a wheelchair user on the bus.”
Now I completely get it… we can’t expect people to magic up space for the wheelchair user. But LUGGAGE!!
We've not been able to go on a train before because of luggage in the wheelchair bay and it enrages me.
You would hope that with all of the technology at our disposal these days that buses could be designed to have seats that can fold away properly and safely to accommodate extra wheelchair users.
I don’t want to come across as self-righteous or entitled, but it honestly enrages me that people are being left out in the rain waiting for another bus hoping that this next one isn’t full to capacity… all whilst the person may be trying to manage a chronic condition.
It makes me feel that our society isn’t quite as developed as we think and that more attention needs to be paid to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to take the bus somewhere.
I also read “Only buses that can carry 22 passengers or more have to be accessible.”
It frustrates me that companies will always do the bare minimum to meet the legal standard. (This info was taken from citizens advice)
Why can’t we do more? We have an aging population… more poorly children are surviving.. There are more wheelchair users than ever before and this is likely only to increase.
I haven’t had the courage to get the bus with Amy since our last time, which was many years ago.
The actual boarding on and off is fine, I am pleased with how buses can be lowered to help people get on, but I still feel more needs to be done to ensure no one is turned away because they have a wheelchair.
I know things have come a long way compared to the past, and I am glad progress is being made, but something about it still doesn't sit right with me.
Have you any experiences, positive or negative, of getting the bus?
I’d be keen to know the experiences of others.
For now I remain reliant on our van, but worry that if at some point we are left needing public transport, that things could be less than ideal.