Transport For All Campaign
Hi, my name is Aaron McKane and I am 21 and I was born with the condition Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. I live just outside a town called Castlederg which some people would call ‘’the sticks’’. Being born with this condition has made me require constant use of a wheelchair. This has made me particularly aware of the issues affecting people in the community with similar conditions. Following this, I have decided to start my campaign #transportforall which to try to get a measure of equality in our transport system.
If I a person that requires the use of a wheelchair wanted to hop onto a public bus I can’t. I would need to give Translink 24 hours’ notice and if you live in some non-rural areas it's 48 hours. I think in this day and age it is pretty much discrimination that people who use a wheelchair do not have the same level of choice to use public buses.
I have already spoken to Translink regarding these issues and they have told me that the drivers need to ensure that the pickup point is accessible and that their driver would need the notice to remove the seat which would then make room for a wheelchair. They also informed me that any bus on the gold liner service would need to go to the workshop to have the seat removed. My question is that why can’t the driver remove the seat as and when requested as they are only secured by a clamp and then could be easily placed in the boot of the bus. This would make access to public transport so much easier for people in wheelchairs.
Another issue I have faced personally that has been a result of not being able to access public transport on a whim is the price taxi firms charge individuals that use a wheelchair. I have been charged one and a half times the standard fare! I feel this is absolutely appalling and I plan to look further into this to see if these charges are even legal.
I have lobbied to all the local political representatives from the main parties regarding these issues. Daniel MC Crossan (SDLP) has offered to appeal to the research department in Stormont to highlight policies and practices to help me highlight and suggest changes then from here we can compile a report from our findings. I have also approached the equality commission and have set a phone meeting to get further support. I have also got support from other local MLA’s such as Sinn Féin’s Órfhlaith Begley and Thomas Buchanan from the DUP.
With support from Leonard Cheshire, I hope to host an event in the Omagh Enterprise centre in the New Year to help promote and raise awareness around these issues. I will continue to run my campaign on social media avenues through #transportforall. Hopefully, we will have enough awareness and support to meet with the Chief Executive of Translink in the new year to discuss the issues people in wheelchairs face while trying to access public transport.
These are the issues that affect me and many others in our community. I feel there is a gap in the public transport services that has opened up an issue around equality. At present, I feel that people like me are being treated differently and this is not acceptable. My end goal is that wheelchair users are not discriminated against in anyway.
If you would like to find out more about my campaign and the work i have done so far please visit my Facebook page at TransportForAll