Saturday, 7 December 2013

Wheelchair VS Pushchair

If you are a follower of Pushchair Trader on Facebook then you may have seen their recent status about the wheelchair VS pushchair on public transport debate.

Apparently, their have been cases in court regarding this argument, one in favour of the pushchair and one in favour of the wheelchair - who gets priority?

This argument is basically about buses. As of right now, the general consensus is 'first come, first served'. This means that if a pushchair/pram/stroller is on the bus, a person in a wheelchair cannot get on. If a person in a wheelchair is on the bus, a parent with a pushchair cannot get on.

Apparently, right now, a supreme court is trying to work out who has more rights on buses public transport.

I posted on this status. Something that was true to me, and probably a lot of other parents. This is what I said:

"I had to ask a complete stranger to hold my barely 6 week old child whilst I folded my pushchair down so a lady in a wheelchair could get on the bus. I had to move my shopping bags to a seat, remove the rain cover as it was raining that day, fold the pushchair down and place it in the shopping hold and then retrieve my baby from the stranger. By the time I had done all of this, the lady in the wheelchair was in place. Next to her, there were 2 spare places where my pushchair could have fit. I had to hold my newborn baby, shopping bags and changing bag for the whole 30 minute journey. It is not about 'first come first served' or even who has more priority.. it is about the bus companies changing their policies."

What I didn't state was this - I was on the way to a midwife appointment so she could remove the staples in my stomach after an emergency c-section. The shopping in my bags was formula and nappies. I was then late for my appointment.

I can argue this case from both sides quite easily.

As a parent, it is my natural instinct to protect my child. As a newborn baby, I don't want her coming out of the pushchair in freezing cold conditions. I don't want to hand her over to a complete stranger to hold whilst I dismantle a pushchair. I don't want to have to hold her uncomfortably because I woke her up, she's now starving and I can't quite get hold of the bottle, milk powder and mix it together with one hand. None of that is fair.

 If you are sat on the bus with your child, newborn, 6 months, 1 year.. it is entirely unfair to either a) be forced to leave the bus altogether or b) struggle entirely trying to juggle basically your entire life in 2 hands. If your child can walk.. then there is no argument. You should fold the pushchair up before you even get on the bus.. there isn't a need for you to take up those seats. However, if your child cannot walk, then why should you then in turn be forced to give up that seat for someone else who cannot walk.. but is just older?

As a disabled person, it is not fair for them to have to sit out in the cold/wind/rain/heat waiting for a bus.. over and over again.. just because a pushchair is already on the bus. How many buses do they have to wait for? 2? 5? In my whole 18 months of using a pushchair on public transport, I have only ever come across maybe 15 incidents where I could not catch a bus because of a wheelchair user. Considering I used to catch the bus several times a week, that's actually a very small amount. Most wheelchair users are inable to vacate their wheelchair and fold it down to sit somewhere else.. One of my close friends is in a permanant mobility scooter and cannot get out of it. Is it fair for her to wait for 3 buses before she can get to her Doctors appointment? No it's not.. surely one has to give?

During this debate, there were many different opinions and comments:

"I was on the bus first, so why should I give up my space"
"Wheelchair users can't use their legs, but you can!"
"I was forced to get off a bus because someone in a wheelchair wanted to get on"
"I only have 2 arms, how can I hold a baby, carry my shopping and fold down a pushchair?"
"Disabled people ask for equal rights, except when it benefits them!"

Those are just a few. Basically, I agree with them all. After posting my comment above I was called ignorant, disgusting, a pig, bitch, discriminative.. and so forth. The rest are too insulting to post.

However, I spoke the truth.

I don't think it is acceptable to expect a parent to hand their newborn child over to a stranger so they can fold their pushchair down. I don't think it is acceptable to ask someone in a wheelchair to "wait for the next one".

Although it is apparently acceptable to tell a parent with a pushchair to "wait for the next one.."

Who is right?

In my eyes, wheelchair users already have priority. If they are on the bus already, a parent is told to wait. If they want to get on the bus, a parent is told to fold the pushchair down.

On my local bus Nottingham City Transport (NCT) there is a bay specifically for wheelchair and pushchair users. It is specifically stated wheelchair users have priority. However, they have now introduced a larger pushchair bay - basically, 8 strollers could fit in these gaps. On majority of buses, the policy is 1 x wheelchair OR 2 x pushchair. If all buses adopted these same policies, then the problem would be resolved.

A wheelchair has brakes. So does a pushchair. I see no hazard in allowing both contraptions on the bus together.

What needs to change is the policy.

Instead of batting parents against the disabled.. create a bus which accomodates both.

Most buses already can, their policy just doesn't allow them to. Drivers are unwilling to risk their jobs to bend the rules, and parents are bullied into giving their space up.

If buses created space for both - because lets face it, those of us who can walk freely without children are quite able to stand - what do we need those extra seats for? One side could be for pushchairs and the other for wheelchairs. Only 3 seats per side could accomodate 2 pushchairs and 1 wheelchair.. then surely everyone is happy?

The worst part of the argument here, is that you cannot fight against the disabled. A disabled person will always have priority over a baby, child, teenager or adult and there is nothing anyone can do to fight this, it's common decency. As soon as I voiced my opinion, I was slandered for not being respectful enough towards the disabled. I understand the meaning of disability, probably more than other people, and I am not ignorant to the difficulties they may face. However, as a parent, I am not ready for my child to be deemed "less important" than anyone else.

I could write this post for days, and as I'm not against or for either, I can't even be controversial.

What are your opinions on this topic? Should wheelchairs have priority over children?


Ella Ralph said...

Good post! I'm with you, it's a tough call! I get the train most places (which incidentally have it well sorted when it comes to accommodating both!) so this has only happened to me once and I struggled big time - people obviously expected me to fold my buggy down because Oliver was clearly at least 1yr but trouble was - he still wasn't walking yet! So I struggled with my pushchair and my 28lb 14m old and nobody offered to help with either. (As you say, not that I want a stranger holding my child anyway no matter what age he was and no-one should be put it that position!) I agree that the only way to solve is to make more room for both. Sorry you had to put up with the abuse of ignorant and selfish people, I get your view totally! Xx

anna said...

Its difficult. I do think its right for pushchairs to make space for wheelchairs, as life in a wheel chair must be so much harder - but then situations like you say, having to take out and wake up a 6 weeks baby etc is not right! I have been in the position of having to move for wheelchair users on the bus and i would rather just get off and wait for the next one, than fold my buggy. I have two kids in my buggy now, both can walk and people may wonder why is my eldest in the pushchair he is nearly 4 and looks massive. he is disabled himself but not to the extent that he can not walk at all. he would be in his special needs pushchair if not for the fact that the nhs wont give a double one as my younger child does not have disabilities, so i cant actually use the special needs pushchair I have been given!!!! im not sure where special needs buggies would stand in this situation as its kind of a cross between the two... it would be better for buses to be better equipped. we did have the bendy buses here which had space for many more wheelchairs and pushchairs but they are now scrapped and back to the normal one! Tbh I am so sick of taking my buggy on public transport these days with two heavy children, a very heavy and bulky buggy its just more hastle than it is worth so unless i have to, i just don't bother to use it and for appointments often end up shelling out an awful lot for taxis. it must be even harder with an actual wheelchair, so i do have to be very thankful my boys mobility problems are not as serious to that extent, and i do think sayings like people with disabilities want equal rights until it suits them is a bit heartless as they really dont have the option of folding at all