I wrote a blog the other day about my difficulties in booking an accessible taxi for next week. Well, I’m very disappointed to say that I failed. I’ve had to postpone the job simply because I can’t get there. I live in Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city and it’s 2023. What on earth is going on?
The job that I had booked was a school assembly. If you follow me, you’ll be aware that I do Disability Awareness Assemblies for schools and wherever possible, I offer these for free. That’s because I believe so passionately that kids need to learn about disability, and interact with disabled people, from a young age. Educating children about disability now is the key to a more inclusive future and that’s why I give my time to doing these assemblies.
Disability Legislation isn’t enough
But how can I do this if the world we live in now is so inaccessible? For almost thirty years, we’ve had legislation in this country to prevent disability discrimination; firstly with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and now the Equality Act 2010 which incorporates disability. I know things have improved for disabled people but after what I’ve experienced this week, I’m afraid we have a very long way to go before we can say disabled people have equality. The frustrating thing is, I can and have travelled the length of the UK on trains and buses. (I’m not saying it’s always easy but for the most part, I have few issues) But when I want to travel a few miles within one of the UK’s largest cities? Not a chance!
Attitudinal Barriers are the biggest
Maybe I’m very wrong (it’s rare!) but I honestly don’t believe that out of all the taxi firms I’ve contacted this week, that not one has an accessible taxi available. It should be said that many of the firms I contacted either mentioned wheelchair access or were recommended for that reason. As I highlighted earlier this week, I’ve spent twenty odd years battling against the attitudes of taxi drivers who put very simply, do not want the hassle of a wheelchair user passenger because it requires them to do more. That’s the harsh reality of it. Over the years, I have found a few really great drivers and I remember them now because their willingness to help is so rare. I’ve often explained my long-running difficulties and they’ve confirmed my assessment of the situation: whilst most can take wheelchair user passengers, they don’t want to.
Physical barriers in society are been slowly reduced but whilst attitudinal barriers remain unchallenged, true equality for disabled people remains unobtainable.
School Assemblies are so important to me and out of all the work I do, it’s the thing I believe has the most potential to change the future for disabled people. There was no way I was cancelling completely. Hubby and I planned a day off in December to prepare for Christmas so I’ve been able to rearrange the assembly for that day and hubby can take me.
I love my work and that I have my own business but society isn’t making it easy. This week has made me much more cautious about what I take on because I hate letting people down. It’s not something I should have to worry about in 2023.