You might have recently seen a video of a man racing the Tube from Mansion House to Cannon Street station, and winning. Since it was uploaded a couple of weeks ago, it went viral, and has been viewed almost 5m times.
When I saw it, I decided to try the challenge for myself. It was really a spur of the moment thing. Working with the Free Help Guy, an anonymous do-gooder, I filmed my race from one station to the next. It was all going so well until I reached Cannon Street. I couldn’t go on. Why? Because along with 1.2m other people in the UK, I have to use a wheelchair to get around, and the only way to reach the platform was via a long set of stairs.
Because of the lack of step-free access in London’s stations, I’m unable to get access 75 per cent of the stops. I made the video because I wanted to highlight the problems this causes, and make people realise how tough it can be getting around in London if you’re disabled. So far, it’s been viewed over 120,000 times, and been featured in the Independent and the Evening Standard. Its success makes me feel brilliant because I've had it rough for the past few years, and without help from my friend Verity, there are many days that I think I won’t have been able to leave the house. But most importantly, I’ve always wanted people to just listen to what I have to say. And finally this seems to be happening. However, while I’m glad it’s finally raising awareness, and putting pressure on TfL, London’s accessibility problem doesn’t just stop at the Tube.
Part of the problem is our attitude towards the disabled in the UK. When the Paralympics came to London two years ago, I thought they would open people's eyes to disability. People's attitudes have changed slightly, but in the end it was so disappointing. I was making three trips a week to the hospital at the time, and the bus drivers were so polite and always willing to help me use the wheelchair ramps to get on board. It was like they knew the world was watching. Finally, I thought, this could be the turning point I’ve been waiting for. Everything was lovely. But as soon as the Paralympics were over and the dust had settled, everything was back to business as usual. Buses would come along, see me in my wheelchair, and then just drive off. And it hurts like hell.
Access can also be approved at shops. On Oxford Street, for example, there are so many steps in the shops they have there, and nothing for wheelchair users. Also ,at a lot of restaurants, the toilets are either upstairs or downstairs. If they don't have facilities for me then what’s the point of me going? The Department for Work and Pensions recognised this problem when they recently urged retailers to make their shops more accessible to the disabled. It makes sense: why would they want to exclude over 12m men, women and children from their business?
As far as money is concerned - I don't want to hear that excuse. If they can go to Iraq and the Prime Minister says I need billions of pounds on a silver platter, no questions asked, how can the Government then turn around and say that certain things can't be done to make things better for the disabled and wheelchair users?
My life with cerebral palsy is hard enough without not being able to get from A to B. My message to the people in charge, whether that's Boris Johnson, David Cameron or TfL, would be this: listen. Don't patronise me, don't ignore me. Listen to what I have to say. And maybe we'll then be able to make some changes, so that next time someone like me wants to race the Tube, they can have a much better chance of winning.Reuse content