IN 2011 it is scarcely imaginable that there are particular groups of people who cannot travel on public transport because, as a society, we simply cannot make the effort to include them
But that is the situation facing many people with disabilities in Wigan and up and down the country.
This month I met with a group of wheelchair users at Hunter Lodge, an excellent clubhouse for people with disabilities in Wigan. They told me they cannot travel on day trips together because local train companies only allow one wheelchair user to travel on each train.
Even worse, if there is space for them to board they are told they must travel in the guard’s van.
When I investigated the situation, I found out that a huge number of rail companies have similar policies which makes it impossible for groups to travel together, and sometimes makes it impossible for people who use wheelchairs to travel at all.
It is 16 years since the Disability Discrimination Act was introduced which requires companies to make reasonable provision for people with disabilities.
I do not consider one wheelchair space in the guards van of a train to be reasonable and neither do the wheelchair users at Hunter Lodge. That’s why, this month, I launched a campaign in the House of Commons to improve the rights of disabled people.
It is unacceptable that the Government is not taking action on this issue.
Rail companies make huge profits and have a responsibility to provide an accessible service. Yet up and down the country the situation is not good enough.
I launched the campaign last week with a challenge to the Transport Minister to press companies to do better. He promised me the Government will take action and I intend to hold him to his word.
As a society we have to think what sort of message we are sending to people with disabilities if we will not force companies to uphold the law.
Over the coming months I will be keeping up the pressure on Government and rail companies to take action on this issue.
I hope you will join me.