I started getting the bus in my wheelchair a week after getting the chair. And it was horrible. I’ve been using the bus for seven months, and it’s not gotten any better.
Between drivers refusing to get off the bus to put the ramp down for me, meaning I usually have to drop off a curb to get on, or drivers being unable to let me on due to the ramp being faulty or the suspension… And let’s not even think about how many times drivers have just driven passed me because I’m in a wheelchair and they’re running late.
Yes, I take longer to get on the bus than everyone else. But, I’ve got it down to a fine art. I can get on a standard, single-decker bus in less than two minutes – including me driving on, scanning my bus pass, getting to the turning area and manoeuvring around the pole cordoning off the wheelchair bay from the gangway.
Though, the worst experience I’ve had to deal with is definitely when they decided not to let me off the bus…
Given that it only happened once. However, it led to one of the worst panic attacks of my life, which also ended up leading to me having a two-hour drop attack.
I was getting the bus home on my final day at work before medical suspension. I couldn’t get my normal bus home due to it being cancelled, so I had to get a double-decker bus and then transfer to a single.
The double-decker wasn’t much of an issue. I missed one stop due to school kids stood, leaning against the disability button. But the second bus was the problem. The driver was running late and dealing with a group of adult baby boys in the back of the bus who kept pressing the button. Eventually, she stopped listening to the bell and only slowed down when she saw people get up from their seats.
So, obviously, she wasn’t going to stop for me no matter how many times I pressed the button because she wasn’t listening. And I couldn’t move before she stopped because my chair would’ve been thrown around the bus.
She finally realised that my bell sounded different to the one that the hooligans were pressing and let me off… A bit too late, though.
Instead of being a quarter of a mile away from home after getting off the bus, I was four miles away from home… And my wheelchair was on a red battery light. Thankfully I got home before my drop attack went full-blown. But that day was hell.
And this is why I support drivers being paid more. My drivers are currently on strike. They’ve been on strike for five days so far, thanks to Arriva refusing to provide their drivers with a suitable raise considering the 11% inflation.
They deserve to earn more, considering the people they need to deal with on the bus. They deserve to earn more, considering they have to physically get off their bus to allow disabled users on.
They deserve a living wage. And when the pay is provided, there will likely be more drivers, and there will likely be a better service to come out of it.
Let’s hope the drivers get what they want soon.
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