Lorraine, a wheelchair user who lives in the UK, and uses the rail system regularly, delved into the findings of a recent study on the UK’s Passenger Assist Service, conducted by the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica).
Rica’s review assessed passenger satisfaction with the Passenger Assist Service over two years, and their findings suggest that passengers approve of the service. The study examined passengers with various impairments and their experiences with each stage of their journey, including usefulness and accessibility. It determined that passengers are satisfied with the assistance received, based on a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rating by 69% of passengers.
Rica’s findings were positive regarding passengers’ satisfaction with ‘all or some’ of the assistance they booked in advance, but their findings on the assistance provided with seating and leaving the train were less promising.
Lorraine cites issues not addressed in the study, including passenger access to on-board facilities for refreshments and toilets, or how people get around when they arrive at their destination. Lorraine knows firsthand the importance of receiving assistance at your destination. “I’ve been very grateful in the past when staff have helped me commandeer a London taxi.” Still, she hopes the Rica findings will highlight areas for improvement with the program and “propose ways to improve and even to ‘mainstream’ our train journeys.”
In comparison, Lorraine appreciates her experience with the local tram system in her area, where she can travel without booking assistance prior to every trip. She summarizes her experience at a nearby station: “I don’t book assistance, I just turn up. If it’s busy I squash in with my powered wheelchair with everyone else.” Regarding why the tram system is more accessible, Lorraine says it’s because it “was planned and built to be accessible, with mega-input from disabled people and their organisations.”
Lorraine encourages inclusion for all people, and resists the notion that travelers with disabilities are “‘special’ rather than mainstream.” She knows this notion only perpetuates the “difficulties and delays that the average passenger does not have to deal with.” Despite her varying experiences, she’s happy whenever she receives courteous assistance!
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