Minister urges coach access for wheelchairs

More than one third of bus stops used by the UK’s main coach operator cannot accommodate wheelchair users, despite its fleet being able to carry them.

National Express stops at almost 1,200 bus stops across the country, but 436 have so many restrictions they prevent drivers from using their lifts to carry wheelchair users aboard.

This means that some disabled people are left unable to travel by coach.

Disabled People Minister Mark Harper says the situation is “unacceptable”.

He is now leading calls for councils to make bus stations and stops more accessible.

Obstacle course

“It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st Century more is not being done to make coach stations and stops more accessible to disabled travellers,” he said.

“There is little point in making sure buses themselves are accessible if those who operate the places where people are collected from are not doing what they can to help.

A wheelchair user boards a coachThe lift for wheelchair users requires a clear space stretching out three metres from the coach

“This isn’t just about doing what’s right – it’s also about recognising the business case – as disabled people and their household have an annual spending power of £200 billion.”

The entire National Express fleet of 550 vehicles is wheelchair accessible – meaning wheelchair users can be carried at the front of their coaches.

Wheelchairs are brought on to the coach using a lift which requires a clear space for a three metre extension from the side of the vehicle.

But at a third of bus stops, objects – such as lamp-posts, bollards, railings, public seating or signs – prevent the lift from operating.


‘Very frustrating’

Wheelchair user David Redgewell, 47, from Alvestone, in Gloucestershire, said the lack of accessibility at some bus stops had forced him to change buses and added many hours to his trips.

“A business trip from Bristol to Perth took 14 hours instead of 12 because I had to change in Glasgow as the coach parking bays in Perth were too shallow for the lift to be used,” said the disability issues campaigner.

“When I went from Bristol to Ilfracombe in June, I had to take a detour via Barnstaple because Ilfracombe doesn’t allow a disabled ramp to be lowered. And in London I couldn’t get to Earls Court directly because there isn’t access for the coach lift.

“It can be very frustrating and annoying because often the coaches are accessible, but the bus stops are not.”


‘Crucial action’

Tom Stables, National Express managing director said: “We carry millions of passengers every year and are absolutely committed to getting people where they want to go whatever their circumstances.

“We hope that with the backing of the government that more station and bus stop owners will listen and take action in this crucial area.”

Local authorities have a legal responsibility to comply with the Equality Act by making reasonable adjustments for disabled travellers.

Some 84% of buses and coaches in England meet new regulations to make them properly accessible to disabled people – ahead of a deadline by 2020.

Virtually all London’s 8,500 buses are now fully low-floor accessible.



ADA announcement : web content accessibility

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a Settlement Agreement with Ahold U.S.A., Inc. and Peapod, LLC (Peapod), the owners and operators of, to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement resolves the Department’s allegations that is not accessible to some individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or have low vision, are deaf or hard of hearing, and individuals who have disabilities affecting manual dexterity. Under the agreement, Peapod will adopt measures to ensure that users with disabilities are able to fully and equally enjoy the various goods, services, facilities, and accommodations provided, including: conforming the website and mobile applications to, at minimum, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA Success Criteria (WCAG 2.0 AA), except for certain third party content; designating a Web Accessibility Coordinator; adopting a Web Accessibility Policy; soliciting customer feedback on how website accessibility can be improved; providing automated and user website and mobile application accessibility testing; and training Peapod’s website content personnel on website accessibility.

To find out more about this settlement agreement or the ADA, call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383(TDD), or access its ADA website at

Beyond to wall – the road to freedom and equality

Twenty-five years ago this month, the Berlin Wall came down, ending limits on freedom of movement between East and West Germany. However, a proverbial wall still stands for people with disabilities on both sides of the Atlantic despite numerous legislations protecting their rights.

At the time the Berlin Wall came down, America was drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), promising its 49.7 million citizens with disabilities access to education, justice, employment, and society. Furthermore, the ADA became the model for the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a human rights treaty to which ratifying countries commit to harmonizing legislation in accord with the CRPD. All five European countries that were part of my recent Marshall Memorial Fellowship trip– Belgium, France, Germany, Serbia, and Spain– had individually ratified. During a discussion of European and American cultures, a powerful statement was made was that often we do not know our own culture and identity until we leave our country. As a Deafblind American, leaving America meant a change in the rights I had come to expect since the passing of the ADA in 1990.

Earlier this year, several Deaf individuals were elected to the European Parliament, a move signifying a step towards inclusion for 80 million Europeans with disabilities in political decision-making in Brussels. A number of legislations and strategies had been drafted in Brussels aiming to create a barrier-free Europe. There’s still much work to be done on the ground— literally, as I stumble over broken cobblestones. Disability inclusion in European society still shows some challenges as evidenced by the disapproving looks I received when using my cane or sign language.

Shortly before I landed in Germany, Berlin dedicated a Holocaust memorial for the 70,000 victims of the Third Reich who were killed due to having a physical or mental disability. Though the dedication of these victims came seventy years later, Germany acknowledges a part of its history that even Holocaust history ignores— the persecution of people with disabilities. Throughout my visit, there was clear evidence that Germany is working towards a barrier-free Europe through accessible information, buildings and even a tactile 3D model of the city. But the most powerful example of Germany’s commitment to inclusion was the high visibility of citizens with disabilities who were clearly accepted members of society. While Germany has learned and apologized for its history of widespread discrimination, modern Germany has much to teach the world about inclusion for all.

The trend for a barrier-free Europe continued in Bilbao, Spain whose recent revitalization incorporated what many revitalization and development fail to do: include accessibility in its blueprint. Bilbao included more than just basic accessibility standards; the crosswalks included some highly advanced technology for the blind, the tourism office included Braille in multiple languages, and the Guggenheim Museum has a stunning tactile exhibit for the blind. Yet the city keeps its accessibility a well-kept secret. Bilbao not only needs to market itself as an accessible city but should share its best practices with cities around the world.

After visiting two highly accessible cities, I came across inaccessible Belgrade. When I asked city planners and architects about accessibility standards, the response was that they adhere to the accessibility standards in the law but none of them could tell me what the actual standards were. What was alarming to me was that with the 2011 Census noting that 577,000 Serbians identified themselves as having a disability, not a single person with a disability was visible during my visit.

The MMF fellows convened together one last time in Paris, a city famous for its rallying cry of liberty. Yet the wall still exists for most people with disabilities in Europe as well as in America. History has taught us the dire consequences of discrimination and exclusion. Transatlantic dialogue needs to keep disability on the agenda and both sides of the pond must realize the social and economic benefits to a fully inclusive society for all. Only then will the wall truly come down for all and will liberty be achieved.

Kerry Thompson, a Program Associate at the Disability Rights Fund, is a Fall 2014 American Marshall Memorial Fellow.


No comment: Boldi’s adventures

In advance, I would like to let you know some facts about Boldizsar. He lost his eyesight in his early years, nevertheless he performs perfectly not only in daily life, but also on academic level. Moreover, he treats the below mentioned and similar situations with his best sense of humor.

I think, it is the only way to manage these situations, but: no comment… Hopefully, with the help of these few words, we all can improve our social skills.


“Today’s story gets a rating of 8 on a scale to 10.

I was sitting at the end of the bus, close to the last door. I pressed the button, when I wanted to take off, but nothing happened.

I pressed it again and again, but the door just did not want to open. 

I pressed the emergency button, still nothing.

I started to accept the fact, that I cannot take off at this stop and I began to go forward the driver, when he suddenly said in his loudspeaker: 

“Just a minute, we have to wait for the blind to take off”…

Employment and Disability

Jane Hatton has vast experience in the fields of employment and diversity, and manages Evenbreak which is a not-for-profit job board run by disabled people for disabled people. All Evenbreak employees are disabled.

Photo of Jane HattonThis is the first in a monthly series of articles around employment and disability. I’m particularly interested in this field, as I have employed a number of disabled people throughout my career, and have seen firsthand the business benefits of doing so. Being disabled myself, I also know how important it is for employers to be inclusive and accessible. And I run a specialist job board for disabled people, so I try to help both sides – inclusive employers and disabled jobseekers – to find each other.

This first article is a reminder of the real value that disabled people bring to the workplace. There have been recent mutterings about disabled people being “not worth” the minimum wage, which sends out the opposite message to my own view – that disabled employees are a positive asset to any workplace. In fact, I do put my money where my mouth is, and I only employ disabled people within my own business. It’s not a decision I have ever regretted – they are all very talented, conscientious and loyal people. I may introduce them to you in future articles.

My own positive experience of employing disabled people is far from unusual. Companies who have employed disabled people before are almost always keen to do so again. Those that haven’t can be wary of employing us. They fear that we will be unproductive, have high levels of sickness absence, we might leave if we can’t cope with the work, and we might be a health and safety hazard. And we might cost them a fortune in providing “reasonable adjustments”. I can understand why these fears might put employers off us, if these fears were based on reality.

However, they are just myths. Much research has been carried out around disability and employment over the years and in different countries, and they all come up with similar findings*. On average:

  • disabled employees are just as productive as our non-disabled colleagues
  • disabled employees have less time off sick
  • disabled employees have fewer workplace accidents
  • disabled people stay in our jobs longer
  • disabled people bring additional qualities (such as persistence, problem-solving, innovation, determination, creativity) that we have had to develop to navigate our way around a world not designed for us
  • disabled people bring inside intelligence into the “purple” market – over 10 million disabled people spend up to £80 billion a year in the UK
  • people prefer to buy their goods and services from companies who employ disabled people
  • people prefer to work for organisations which are inclusive and accessible and look after their staff – so they attract the best talent.

On that basis, employers should be paying a premium for disabled staff, not paying us less!

So, if you are an employer, and you are looking for productive, loyal, creative and talented staff then you need to consider the talent pool of disabled people. If you are a disabled employee or jobseeker, then I hope you recognise your true worth! We will be exploring this further in future articles.

*If you would like the sources of this research, please email me at and I will be happy to send it to you.


“Must see”: Life feels good

reż. Maciej Pieprzyca, Poland 2013, 107’ – premiere: October 11th

38th Gdynia Film Festival: Silver Lion Award & Audience Award
37th World FIlm Festival in Montreal: Grand Prix des Ameriques, the Award of the Ecumenical Jury and the Audience Award

The story of Mateusz, a man suffering from cerebral palsy. As a child, he had been diagnosed to be a retard with no contact with the outside world. 25 years later, it turned out that he was a perfectly normal and intelligent person. Thanks to his will to live and optimistic outlook, he was able to overcome his limitations..

“Pieprzyca situates the central axis of his film in that gap between the emotional vegetable, seen by even the kindliest, and the smart, quite sardonic ‘inner Mateusz’ manifested in his interior monologues and extremely expressive eyes. His erratic movements and unintelligible sounds register less as symptoms of disease than as a language that others are too unimaginative to interpret.” Variety

“From the Beginning, Disability Taught Me That Life Could Be Reinvented”

When you’re born without legs, you tend to get a lot of folks offering up advice on the other gimps you should meet—“This guy has no legs too, you gotta look him up”—and I usually dig hearing about what other cripps are doing with themselves. Growing up I really had no idea. What color wheelchairs were they using? How did they make pants make sense? Am I doing this right? Are they nice to people who ask, “Hey, you need help?” Or are they usually a dick like I am?

Finding out about other cripps has been a lot like learning about distant cousins spread all over the world; obviously we are related but very rarely have I felt like I was looking in a mirror. As a preteen reading Bop and Seventeen magazine and crushing on Kurt Cobain and Brad Renfro, I’d skim the articles my mom suggested I read (for instance, about a woman who has no arms, paints with her feet, is approximately a million years older than I am, and is super duper Christian), and I’d think, neat enough, but they were definitely not idol material. I was discovering wheelies and boys and weed and music and my ability to set the tone in a conversation, especially if my wheelchair had a bunch of cool stickers on it. But the folks using wheelchairs on the TV—where was the style, where was my mirror?

Since my teenage years I’ve traded in Bop for books, I sometimes ride a skateboard to set the tone in a conversation, my wheelchair still has tons of cool stickers on it, and I believe that ramps and wheelchairs are just as much about style as they are access. Which is why, after a quarter of a century of no-leg life, I found my wheelchair idol as soon as I read John Hockenberry’s words in his book Moving Violations (Hyperion, $16), which has quickly become my bible, my cripp style, my everything:

From the beginning, disability taught me that life could be reinvented. In fact, such an outlook was required. The physical dimensions of life could be created, like poetry… To have invented a way to move about without legs was to invent walking. This was a task reserved for the gods, and to perform it was deeply satisfying. None of that was apparent to people who stared, to them I was just in a wheelchair. To me, I was inventing a new life. To them I was getting by in dealing with my predicament. To them, I was standing on a ledge and not jumping off. To me, I was climbing up to get a better view.

John Hockenberry is the supercripp’s Supercripp, but he is certainly more than some heartwarming no-leggy simpatico for gimps without idols: he’s a radio news host for WNYC and Public Radio International’s The Takeaway; he’s won four Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards; he’s worked for NPR, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, andWired magazine; and, most notably, is a Distinguished Fellow at MIT Media Lab. He’s a key conversationalist in dialogue about technology and human enhancement, and is actively bridging the gap between today’s top technology innovators and the innovators of disability. I, of course, couldn’t wait to ask him about all of this in our phone conversation, which I still, honestly, can’t believe happened.

I really appreciate that conversation you’re having with some of today’s top innovators about the innovators of disability. Can you say some more about this?

The creative enterprise of embracing the uncertainty of life is really the innovative mode. And sometimes I think that the world may have finally caught up with us in this regard… Walter Isaacson wrote a book, The Innovators, all about people of the tech world that have changed the world. We are these people. People that improvise with the physical constraints of life and the cultural constraints of life are creative people. It’s the poets, the artists, the people with disabilities. The techies may get millions of dollars from it, but its the double amputee over in Cameroon who designed and built his own wheelchair, who decided he was gonna fashion, from what was around him, a full life; that’s what innovation is all about.

You are touching on something I am really into, which is the link between creativity and disability; the creative act of getting along in a world that is not made for you.

I think you get the opportunity to make a world for you, which could possibly be annoying, and you often wish you didn’t have to spend so much time doing that. I think everybody is annoyed by the obstacles they encounter. But I think that disability allows you to be the author of your entire physical space, in a way that people who are normal don’t really have the opportunity to do. A lot of times the pity is a slap in the face. I am so proud of where I am right now. How can you possibly pity me? Are you out of your mind? Consider what I have accomplished—not in an arrogant way, but in an exhilarated and exciting kind of way. Sometimes you wish people could see that, rather than very superficial signs of disability.

What do you think about pity? Is it a problem?

In general I think there is a far more prevailing notion that people with disabilities are tough, aggressive, very much setting the tone in a conversation. I think if there are pity issues, some can arise out of a sense of struggle on the part of the individual. I don’t think just because you are disabled you are a person worthy of pity; I think there are people who are disabled and struggling, and that produces pity. It’s a complicated set of emotions. It’s been a long time since someone looked at me and said, “Oh, how horrible…”

What about help? I have no legs and get asked if I need help all the time.

If I am just sitting, reading my iPhone or something like that, on the corner, people will come up and say, “Do you need help across the street?” and I respond incredulously and say, “I would wheel across the street if I wanted to cross the street. I have wheels. They aren’t rooted to the corner.” … But being a parent of five able-bodied kids has made me understand that if I just top off and get mad at just anyone who comes up and asks me if I need help, my kids are gonna get the idea that the world is against me. So I’ve had to really be careful about a quick response. When I was young, when somebody would ask if I needed help I would say, “Do I look like I need help, you dickhead?” I mean, really I would just be really obnoxious, and I’ve had to really edit that a little bit.

I’m still very angry to those people.

If I didn’t have kids, I think I’d still be locking and loading on anyone who asked me for help to this day, and I am in my late 50s.

I’ve noticed if I stop moving, folks tend to think I’m not moving because I can’t, but I’m really just choosing to stay still.

And if you are going too fast, it’s like you are out of control. I got these lit-up wheels on my chair.

I saw those! They are super rad!

And they completely disarm people! It’s almost like, instead they go, “Oh, those are so great!” The idea that I would express a level of integrity with my chair, by decorating it in that way, I think immediately carries the message, “Oh, he is happy in the chair; that chair isn’t against him.”

And they are so cool.

And it’s cool! Exactly. The cool part really says—the even more important message—he is into the experience, and they can focus on that rather than, “Oh, I guess you wish you didn’t have that wheelchair.” My kids say all the time, “Why do people say you are confined to a wheelchair? That’s ridiculous—if they took away your wheelchair then you really couldn’t move.” I am liberated in a wheelchair. That’s the idea, and even my kids grasp that.

Do you think views on disability are shifting? How have we done since ADA?

It’s a complicated question in many ways because I don’t know what I would have expected. I don’t know how to evaluate what an A-plus would be for any society… And I think since ADA, which was a flawed law to begin with in many ways, a lot has improved. Especially in the latter years. In the beginning the ADA was just a contingent, unwelcome voice of the party, where people involved in the civil rights movement weren’t sure they wanted people with disabilities to be equated with Martin Luther King, equating being black with a disability. Like it wasn’t appropriate, you know, [civil rights activists were saying] “We’re not sick,” and of course a lot of people with disabilities are saying, “We’re not sick either”; that’s not the issue. There was a certain uncomfortableness going on there. Aside from communities like Seattle, and certainly the Bay Area… places where it’s kind of disability nirvana, where there is a real strong community-led disability tolerance… There have been a lot of modifications that have been made in the past several years in terms of public access, and people realize it’s just better in the long run, to just do this rather than to hold out against it. The number of people who look at a building and its accessibility as a sign of it being modern are much more in the majority than the people who look at a place that’s made accessible and see it as some sort of hospital.

Where do you see disability going in the next 15–20 years?

I think millennials are thinking much more in terms of “Boy, when’s the house gonna drop on me?” I think the sense of alarm and worry about the instability of the world, as opposed to my generation, who thought we were all going to make more money than our parents… Millennials, they see that and there is a much greater sense of planning for the future. There is a stronger community orientation among young people. Some of it is kind of annoying and superficial like Facebook, but I think as people grow up, those values of social networks online will begin to be reflected in global civic structures, volunteer organizations, and in those organizations there is gonna be a culture of “We gotta make room for people with disabilities too.” There isn’t this absolute sense of “Well, there is normal and [then there’s] everything else we don’t even talk about,” which was really the case when I was growing up.

I am so excited Washington Access Fund [an assistive technology nonprofit group based out of Seattle] is bringing you to town. Why are you coming? What do you want people to know about what they are doing?

Their program of financing assistive technology for people with disabilities is really a key. I think what the Washington Access Fund is doing is allowing people to become independent, not through some sort of medical model, but through a financing model, like owning cars and owning a home. What you are seeing with this program and its piloting success of matching people with assistive technology is a whole new approach to disability. They are a small organization, they are working really hard, they have a lot of obstacles in front of them. Their idea really excites me. Plus I love Seattle, and the people of Seattle. I had such a wonderful time when I lived there, back in the ’80s.