THE BLOG
13/10/2011 19:53 BST | Updated 13/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Everyday a Proportion of the Population are Excluded From Activities the Rest Take for Granted

Nearly 16 years after the landmark Disability Discrimination Act gave hope to people with disabilities up and down the country, my disabled constituents still cannot travel to work, shop or see friends without risking indignity, humiliation and abuse.

Nearly 16 years after the landmark Disability Discrimination Act gave hope to people with disabilities up and down the country, my disabled constituents still cannot travel to work, shop or see friends without risking indignity, humiliation and abuse.

Despite real improvements in access to transport, one sixth of the 12 million people in the UK who have a disability say they have been subjected to high level abuse on public transport. Nearly half say access is a problem. More damningly, in a recent report on the issue the Trailblazers campaign struggled to find young people to take part because they found the prospect of engaging with public transport too distressing.

That's why this week I initiated a debate in Parliament to try to force into being the changes that were promised over a decade ago.

Nearly half of train stations do not have level access, stories abound of people being stranded without help to get on and off trains and being forced to travel in relay because of a shortage of wheelchair spaces. In one appalling example, one of my constituents was forced to travel in the guards van. With ticket office closures, cancelled station upgrades and cuts to concessionary travel this is likely to get worse, not better.

On the buses people fare little better. In more than half of all journeys problems arise. Through all the stories sent to me before the debate - bus drivers refusing to stop, shortage of wheelchair spaces and blind people stranded on buses - runs a common thread of anxiety and humiliation.

The situation is so far from inevitable. Half of all bus operating revenue comes from public funding. Yesterday I called on the Government to use its procurement power to press for change. On the railways, the West Coast Mainline franchise is up for renewal next year and I am seeking commitments that this issue will be a priority as part of that process.

All companies receiving public funds should be required to train staff, and conduct mystery shopper exercises which they should report on annually to Parliament.

On Wednesday MPs from across the House of Commons united to tell Government they demand progress by 2020, the deadline by which companies must make the bare minimum of adjustments set out in law.

We cannot allow this deadline to be missed, and the Minister accepted my request for a working group comprising Government, transport companies and people with disabilities to drive this forward. It is simply unacceptable that the promise we made 16 years ago may not be fulfilled.

Everyday a significant proportion of the population are excluded from activities the rest of us take for granted. Those of us who have the luxury of ignoring this problem must not be allowed to do so, because ultimately it is a question about the sort of society we want to live in; do we allow exclusion to go unchallenged, or do we take action urgently to make sure the stories of humiliation and indignity that were told in Parliament this week are consigned to history, where they belong.