It is Monday again which means it’s time for another blog post. This week I’m focusing on being a long cane user.
As you maybe aware I am Visually Impaired and use a long cane. In order for me to get around I sweep the cane across the floor in front of me to be able to find objects in my path. Including but not limited to steps, curbs, dogs and people.
Earlier this week I had gotten off the train and was making my way to the escalators. It was a busy morning and I was making my way to work. Someone was at the side of me and noticed my cane hit their leg, they looked down at my cane and continued to move forwards. The difficult and dangerous thing was that we were trying to get on the escalator. People at the other side of me noticed I had my cane, they stopped and let me get on. I said thank you.
The person who had come into contact with my cane continued onto the escalator. I continued to use my cane to navigate onto the escalator and my cane caught between their legs. Once we were on the escalator I stood my cane in front of me and waited until we reached the top.
I put my cain out cautiously to find my way off. As I did this and moved forward the same person was caught by my cain.
The difficult thing with being a cain user is that we are using it for the right reasons. To discover obstacles in our path and navigate safely. The problem comes when others pay no attention. Mistakes can be made yes, but when someone actively notices your cain and continues to not give you the space you need to navigate safely then they are putting you and them at risk.
The danger in this situation is that the person who ignored my cain could have tripped up and slammed their head onto the escalator. I could have then fallen onto them. This would have been very dangerous for both us.
Similar situations can occur when cain users are crossing roads. If people ignore our cain and step into the road or don’t move out of the way then they could cause both of us to fall over.
When out and about people tend to have their headphones in to block out all the noise around them, which makes sense. But this can also mean you’re in your own little world.
This can lead to people being less aware of their surroundings. Meaning they may miss someone using a mobility aid. Which can have serious consequences.
All we ask is that you try be a bit more cautious. We are doing what we need to do to get around. We can’t travel at quieter times if we need to get to work. We shouldn’t have to travel at quiet times.
Please just be a little mindful and don’t rush people. Getting to work can be very hectic and can create stress. But if we all just try be a little more aware of our surroundings (unless, like me you’re Visually Impaired and find this difficult) we can all have an easier and smother time on public transport.
It has been a long time since I have visited my brother in London, the last time was before the Pandemic.
We decided when would be the best time for me to visit then I booked tickets to go on the train. First we had to phone for assisted travel as I am Visually Impaired and need help navigating my surroundings. I have Scoliosis and need help carrying my bags. Once we had booked the assisted travel I had to book tickets. This required phoning a separate number. We got the trains booked and I requested tickets be sent to my house. The assisted travel booking came through by email.
Going to London using assisted travel or coming back from London has always been stressful for various reasons.
For those of you who don’t know, assisted travel is a service offered to train users who are Disabled or who need assistance with their travel. You phone up, or use the Passenger Assistance app and you tell them what you need assistance with, when you are travelling and what your Disability is.
The Friday came for me to go to London and my mum took me to the station and we let someone know I was there. The lady was very helpful and told us to take a seat. We waited and a man came over to help me onto the train. He took my bag and helped onto the train. My mum got on too. He guided me to my seat, put my bag up overhead and explained where everything was and that there were people getting on at Doncaster who would be sitting next to me.
My mum and the member of station crew got off. A lady came up to me from the Grand Central train crew and introduced herself. Finally the train set off and we were on our way.
Arriving in London I messaged the family group chat so my brother could see that I was there. Even though he was watching my train come in.
Everyone got off the train and I stayed sat down. I looked around and I couldn’t see anyone who was coming to help me. I was getting stressed. I messaged my brother.
Just to make clear, when you are waiting for assisted travel they tell you that you should never be waiting more than 5 minutes for someone to come and help you. The other thing to note is that the assisted travel arrangements are with the station crew, unless something happens along the journey and then the train crew help.
A few moments later I heard some voices and the cleaner came bustling down the aisle emptying bins and tidying up. She noticed me and asked if I was waiting for assistance. I said yes and she said she’d be back. Messaging the group chat again I wrote what was happening. The lady came back and said she had told the driver.
This is the best bit. The driver contacted the station staff who had forgotten about me. Well done Kings Cross.
A man came on to get me and he didn’t introduce himself he just said ‘is this your bag?’ We went to get off and when we were on the platform he didn’t offer me his arm so I could be guided safely. He was carrying one small bag with clothes and another tote bag. But he should have guided me. He should have introduced himself with ‘Hello my name is…’
A little further down the platform the train crew caught up and said they would help me get to the barriers. I took their arm and we wandered down the platform. I explained I was meeting my brother and what outfit he had on.
We met up with him near the barriers and headed down to the tube.
I will post separate blogs about my weekend.
The Monday morning came and we got the bus back to kings Cross and arrived half an hour before my train. The station wasn’t too busy and we made our way to the Assistance point. The lady radioed through to let them know I was there. She radioed again. She radioed again. By this point I was again getting stressed. Finally after a while the LNER lady just said she’d do it herself.
She was very nice and explained we were in no rush and we will just wander onto the platform. She saw the train was in and we got on. Again she directed me to my seat. I said goodbye to my brother and sat down. He messaged in the group chat that I was on the train.
We mentioned what happened on the way down and how I was left. She apologised and said she would ring Leeds and let them I was on the train.
When I arrived at Leeds I stood up once everyone else was off and a man in a blue Northern Rail jacket approached me and took my bag and helped me off the train. We got to the Bradford train and I explained what happened at London and he shook his head. But I pointed out I have always had great service at Leeds and Bradford Interchange (and Forster Square). I sat down and had my bags next to me. The conductor asked where I was going to and I said Bradford. He said he was changing there so if no one got on to help he would assist me off the train.
Once we stopped at Bradford a man got on and grabbed my bag and helped me off the train. I sat down outside the barriers and waited for my Mum.
Every other station was brilliant, I have always had great help at Bradford and Leeds, their staff are lovely.
At Kings Cross I was left on the train, there was no assistance to meet me to help me board the train to come home. So someone else had to do it.
Staff who do the job of assisted travel should have Disability training. This is why it is not OK that someone else filled the gap. The lady who helped was lovely and seemed concerned about my previous experience and genuinely wanted to help.
This kind of scenario happens far too often and this is why I do not like travelling independently. I am Visually Impaired and use a long cane to navigate my surroundings. I cannot just get on a train and go where I want. The assisted travel service which I and many others rely on had let me down on parts of my journey.
When you are Disabled you are reliant on others to help you. These services are in place to enable us to get around and be independent. However they let us down more often than you think.
Then there are the people who do a great job in these stations who hear these stories. They are also being let down because they are doing an amazing job, but then others are letting them down by not doing their jobs properly.
As I mentioned before the staff at my usual stations are brilliant and are always on hand to explain and assist me with my journeys. The lady at Kings Cross who got me onto the train was very helpful. The cleaner who notified someone I was still waiting was helpful.
But none of that should have happened. It should have been smooth, the assistance should have been there. As Disabled people we are tired of raising the concerns and seeing others go through it time and time again. But because we are Disabled and a very marginalised community the outrage is minimal.
Imagine you can’t see very well and you have constant back pain due to a curved spine. How would you feel being left on a train when you had booked assisted travel before hand? The thought that if someone wasn’t there at the other end meeting you and had no one to also help you raise your concerns and ensure someone was helping you on your journey ?
It is not acceptable. If you have experienced this before please leave your comments below.
Since lockdown is now easing a little more I’ve been thinking about what I am looking forward too.
In the past few months I have not been able to go for a sports massage which has been difficult as the weather has been cold and this causes me more pain in my back. The cycling I have been doing has been helpful though as it is low impact exercise which is good for me. It has also been good for my circulation as I have been moving around a lot less than normal. So the cycling has balanced this out.
The other thing I am looking forward to is hopefully seeing my friends for an outside coffee catch up. I hope the weather gets a bit nicer, well it should, we’re coming into spring, so I can meet up with people. Socially Distanced and out side of course. Seeing people over a video call and normally phone calls is not the same as having a coffee and a cake with a friend. I think we can all agree we’re looking forward to being able to socially distance with a friend.
It will be nice to also try get back to some level of normality. The issue I am concerned about as a Visually mpaired person is using public transport. Over the past year public transport has been much nicer for me to use, it’s been less crowded. This allowed me to safely, on most occasions, navigate a train carriage and find a seat. It has also been much nicer when travelling through train stations because the main one I use on my into work has implemented a one way system. Yes it does take a little longer, but the upside is I don’t have to navigate people walking towards me. Which is great. So much easier.
What are you looking forward to as we go into the next few stages of easing out of lock down?