Lack of access will hit disabled fans’ enjoyment of Paralympics

The Paralympic Games start in just over two years’ time. However, many London Tube stations are still not accessible to wheelchair users.

The Paralympic Games start in just over two years’ time. However, many London Tube stations are still not accessible to wheelchair users. As any disabled person who has ever tried to get a lift installed anywhere knows, lifts cost money. A lot of money. So it is a shame, but not a surprise, to disabled people that six step free access schemes were deferred last year, saving £50 million.

London Underground says there are 61 step free, accessible stations in London but, as last night’s BBC News investigation showed, the lifts are too small for more than one person – especially since most wheelchair users would always need a carer with them on public transport.

As Steve Smith, the son of a long-term wheelchair user, told the BBC:

“The underground stations with ‘accessible lifts’ as you could see in the report are too small and not easily accessible for a disabled person and their luggage and any carers. God knows how they would feel if they suffered from claustrophobia!

“If they put proper lifts of a decent size in, they would be accessible to everyone who needs help accessing the underground – not just some of the disabled.”

A spokesperson for Transport for London told Left Foot Forward:

“We would like all stations to be step-free, but it costs a lot of money – a lot more than people think. There are 8,500 step-free buses, all black taxi drivers have ramps and drivers are trained to assist disabled people. All of the Docklands Light Railway stations have lifts.

“Disability is not only about people in wheelchairs – we now have announcements and hearing loops for those who are deaf and blind.”

Unfortunately for the Coalition Government, they are currently making massive spending cuts wherever possible – just when spending extra money on sport and access would have allowed the rest of the world to see London for the wonderful place it is.

Unfortunately for Paralympic athletes and their disabled fans, disabled people already feel that their services are at the top of the list of things to make cuts to. So while it is to be hoped that Tube stations will become more accessible in the next two years, disabled Tube users cannot be blamed for having their doubts.

It is to be hoped, however, that the Government will consider the fact that if and when Paralympic athletes and disabled fans are able to get around the city, they will spend just as much money as anyone else during London 2012 and will, in this way, contribute to our economy, just as Olympic athletes and their non disabled fans will.

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