Written by Ian Loynes
Whilst there are still significant shortcomings (particularly on the Tube), London is generally a great example of how a public transport system can meet the access needs of most people, including most Disabled People. However, this has not always been the case.
For this we, as Disabled People, should be very grateful indeed, I believe, to DAN (Disabled People’s Direct Action Network) who I referred to in my last blog entry.
It was DAN in the 1990’s who were prepared to undertake risky ‘actions’ to highlight just how inaccessible public transport was – particularly in our Capital City. Many people were uncertain at the wisdom of Disabled People handcuffing themselves to buses and trains and laying under wheels. Apart from the obvious risks, there was concern that by inconveniencing the general public we might lose their support. (DAN often ensured the public could not use the bus/train, saying ‘Now you know what it feels like’ – wearing T-Shirts saying “To boldly go where all others have gone before”!).
However, these high profile actions attracted the media like flies around a honey-pot. I believe that the work of DAN directly led to a political understanding that public transport SHOULD be accessible to Disabled People; an acceptance that we could not be fobbed off with segregated and often patronising, Dial-a-Ride schemes any more.
I went to one of their London actions in the 1990’s, it was a great and empowering experience, sadly on the way home I crashed my car, one of three crashes in three weeks! – but that really IS another story!
The fact that all London taxis and London buses are now wheelchair accessible is, I believe, a direct result for the work of DAN and similar groups. Of cause, the politicians and transport providers will say that these campaigns and actions had no effect, but I think we know different! DAN was never a massive organisation; it just goes to show that campaigns can be successful with relatively small groups of people. DAN showed that a well informed, media savvy campaign can achieve amazing successes.
London Underground still has a long way to go, before all their stations are wheelchair accessible. Some are, but many are still not. It is getting better, but in my opinion, being a little bit accessible is no good, and makes it difficult to see the underground as something I would use routinely through fear of going somewhere only to arrive at an inaccessible destination.
DAN did much, not just in London and not just about public transport.
I believe Disabled People owe a debt of thanks to DAN.