Monday 11 December 2017

'Getting to work can take me three hours and it’s a nightmare', says wheelchair user Saoirse

Satires Smith (25) at her local bus stop in Clontarf, she has great difficultly in finding wheelchair friendly transport. Photo: Damien Eagers
Satires Smith (25) at her local bus stop in Clontarf, she has great difficultly in finding wheelchair friendly transport. Photo: Damien Eagers

Laura Lynott

A wheelchair user from Dublin has said it takes her three hours to get to work because of the “nightmare” she experiences on public transport.

Former drama student Saoirse Smith (25), from Clontarf, works in a call centre in Blackrock, and told how she has been left stranded by buses and trains, and even refused lifts from taxis.

She doesn’t have to be at the office until 5pm, but Saoirse sets off at 2pm because she doesn’t know if she’ll get on a bus in a wheelchair.

"I’ve been left in the pouring rain because a Dublin Bus driver said the wheelchair ramp wasn’t working,"Saoirse said.

"That driver didn’t even come out of his seat to try to help me and instead said the next bus would be along in five minutes and then the next bus to stop said the same thing. I was absolutely soaking wet. I was fuming,” she said.

"If I can’t get on the bus, I ask the driver can I have a hand and some of them won’t even help me – mostly they won’t," Saoirse added.

She claims she’s also been squashed on buses and struggled to get off, even shouting to the driver for help, but to no avail.

"I’ve actually missed my stop.  Most drivers are unhelpful but there are the rare nice ones that are helpful."

Saoirse often relies on a lift from her step-dad because she has cerebral palsy, and suffers waiting lengthy periods at bus stops when the temperatures are too low.

"I shouldn’t feel like a second-class citizen, like I’ve no rights, I should be able to get from A to B just like everyone else," she said.

A Dublin Bus spokesman said: "It’s our policy to ensure all our buses, information points and services are as accessible as possible."

The spokesman added that bus ramps are "checked in detail for operation and at yearly intervals have a more detailed condition check of the entire control system.

"Despite all of these checks, failures do occur, due to damage, wear and tear and other circumstances outside of our direct control.

"For this reason Dublin Bus has invested in a major upgrade programme to replace aging ramps on older buses.”

Saoirse has also experienced problems on Irish Rail.

"You have to ring ahead to the train station and tell them you’re coming,” Saoirse said.

"That’s so they can get the ramp ready. But even after doing that I’ve ended up stranded on the train,” she added.

"I’ve had to rely on strangers to go and ask for the ramp. It makes me feel so anxious.”

An Irish Rail spokeswoman said: "We’re sorry to hear of the issues this customer faced and will report this issue to the relevant station managers, and would welcome the opportunity to have our accessibility officer discuss this directly with the customer, which will help us improve our service."

Herald

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