Public transport is an essential part of the infrastructure of any civilised society and therefore if disabled people are to achieve full equality as contributing citizens, it is important that public transport is as accessible as it can be, and by this I do not just mean wheelchair access but also a whole range of features so that transport is accessible to a wide range of people with differing impairments.
By accessible transport, I am also referring to the whole journey from the front door to the final destination. This means that the dropped curb from someone's front door to their nearest bus stop is as important as how accessible the bus is. By removing these small barriers, the benefit can be enormous, and this is not just for disabled people, but a whole range of public transport users. A fully accessible public transport system is an easier, quicker and nicer system for everyone since everyone can benefit from lifts and so on, that has been originally installed to meet the needs of wheelchair users.
While I do accept that public transport is not yet fully accessible as it should be, and I am sure that it can never be the case as standards and expectations rise, I do not accept that in every location, public transport is terrible enough to be considered a barrier to disabled people. I find it odd that poor public transport seems to be one of the main excuses to why disabled people can not get a job, despite the fact they do not know where they are working, and often already have access to a car!
I live in Coventry, and for myself as an electric wheelchair user, the public transport is excellent, there is a very good and fully accessible bus service throughout the city and the train station are very helpful, even when I do not book assistance, and I never book assistance! The public transport system is so good, that along with the fact I can now have my groceries delivered with online shopping, I got rid of my car when I got my electric wheelchair, as I was not using it anymore.
If I had a complaint, it would be about using taxis. The problem is not so much that they are inaccessible, but rather that the poor attitude of the drivers mean they often 'attempt' to refuse to take me, making all kinds of excuses about my wheelchair being too heavy and so on. I have had my wheelchair fully okayed by the council and I have done everything I can to make people aware of this issue, being interviewed on local radio twice! The worst situation is at the train station, especially during peak times, when the drivers act like a mob, refusing to take me on mass, shaking their heads to me like I am stupid. My personal assistant eventually coaches one of the drivers to take me, like they were a frightened cat stuck up a tree! I have learnt to bite my lip in this frustrating matter and just try to see the funny side.
I believe that for some people with impairments, a fully accessible transport system will removed the need for them to have the mobility component of DLA or PIP, because their needs will be fully met. This is why I believe in an outcome based single disability payment, like the one currently being proposed by Labour, since it could and should provide a balance between what is spent on supporting individuals, and what is spent making the wider environment accessible. This means that providing dropped curbs and other features may be more beneficial than any amount of personal benefit, especially since it is not possible for any individual to 'buy' a dropped curb!
The political argument for accessible transport has been won some years ago now, and I personally find it boring when people assume otherwise. It is only a matter of time and money, which has been difficult of late, before the UK has a fully accessible public transport system we should all be proud of, especially as it will be one less excuse for disabled people not to work!