By Cara McDonald
UNRELIABLE technology, poor disability awareness, inadequate staff training and inaccessible stations and platforms no wonder a new report out today says young wheelchair users, like me, and people with mobility difficulties, often feel like second class citizens when using public transport.
I am a 16-year-old with a neuromuscular condition and use an electric wheelchair. I'm also a member of Trailblazers young campaigners' network, part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, who over the last three months have carried out investigations in to the state of public transport for young disabled people across the UK.
The findings of our new report, End of the Line, chime with my own experiences. For me, the idea of using public transport can be quite daunting and requires a lot of planning, so I mostly get transported around with my mum or dad, as we have an adapted people carrier.
But a few months ago I went into Edinburgh on the train from Linlithgow. We had to book in advance to make sure they had the required ramps to get my wheelchair on board. When we got there we had to instruct the guard how to use the ramp and we ended up in a normal carriage, as the wheelchair space was already taken by folks standing.
Once in Edinburgh, we had to watch the time, because if we missed the train we had pre-booked we might have had a problem getting back on or off not all trains have ramp systems.
I have not even attempted to travel by bus one of my friends who uses a wheelchair has had buses drive past her. And currently I have no transport to school after a problem with the straps holding my chair in place.
I would really love to be able to go into Edinburgh with my friends or sister, or on my own, but the uncertainty of the journey has put me off. An accessible transport system would help my independence, especially as I get older and contemplate university, possibly in Edinburgh itself that is if I can get there, of course.
Cara McDonald, 16, has FSH muscular dystrophy
The Scotsman, 6th May 2009