Four young people have spent four days travelling more than 800 miles around Wales on public transport, to raise awareness of the barriers they and other disabled people face.
The “All Aboard” Transport Challenge was part of the 40th birthday celebrations of Disability Wales, the leading disabled people’s organisation in Wales.
Although there were few major problems, the event had been sponsored by the transport company Arriva, so its staff were aware in advance of the route.
But the four travellers were still able to highlight a number of areas where access could be improved.
The four young people, all members of Pembrokeshire Young Voices for Choices, started their four-day challenge in Haverfordwest on Tuesday 17 April, and visited towns such as Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Bangor, Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, before returning to Haverfordwest.
There was also an unscheduled trip between Carmarthen and Swansea, which again passed off without major problems.
One of the four, Sian Jones, a wheelchair-user from Goodwick, said the four days had gone better than expected, with helpful staff, but she said she had hoped for “more of a challenge”.
Among problems she encountered, she twice experienced train staff addressing her personal assistant (PA) rather than talking to her directly, while there was often luggage blocking the wheelchair spaces on both trains and buses, train toilets were not big enough for both her and her PA, and bus timetables were hard to read and understand.
Jones stressed that the comparatively problem-free four days did not mean there were no improvements needed to access on public transport.
She said: “I have thought [on previous occasions]that I was going to be stuck on the train because they had forgotten about me. They have forgotten to book me in and forgotten to put the ramp out for me to get off.”
Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales, said: “Overall, it was a positive experience but they have previously had difficult experiences travelling on public transport, or have even avoided using it altogether.”
She added: “We ended with a celebratory event at Haverfordwest and a representative from Arriva Trains Wales was there taking notes.
“There has been quite a big investment in the infrastructure and train and station improvements but he recognised that there was still work to be done on staff attitudes and staff training.
“It was good that they had a good experience because it shows that it can be done and doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to get it right.
“If it can be done for these four then it should be done for any disabled person travelling any time anywhere by public transport.”
Disability Wales will now meet with Arriva Trains Wales to discuss issues that arose from the event, and also hopes to meet with Carl Sargeant, the Welsh government minister for local government and communities, and members of the National Assembly’s new cross-party group on disability.
As another part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, Disability Wales is producing The Story at 40, a film funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund that will record the experiences of Welsh disabled people who were born in 1972.
25 April 2012