Anybody reading the story about disabled athlete Cecilia Turk’s awful experiences while trying to travel by train will be horrified. She was treated appallingly and no wonder she feels humiliated by the whole ordeal.
First she needed to go to the toilet, but found that facilities at Andover station were undergoing maintenance and out of bounds. She couldn’t use the toilet on the South West Trains service back to Havant because she never actually managed to get on board.
Cecilia, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, had been unable to get to the station in time to catch her planned return train (with assistance pre-booked).
But she knew there would be more trains and so her support worker pressed an information button to speak to staff and explain her needs.
Told that the guard on the next train would be informed of what assistance Cecilia required, they thought no more of it – until the train arrived and she was ignored by the guard who was supposed to be helping her. This was despite both her support worker and a friend running towards him and shouting to attract his attention.
We sincerely hope this was an isolated incident, but there has to be a concern that other disabled people are being confronted with such issues when they try to use public transport.
While disabled athletes inspire us with their achievements in the Paralympics, it is a timely reminder that daily life can still be a struggle.
Cecilia, a talented boccia player, had tried out to be part of the team at this year’s Games, yet she was made to feel like a second-class citizen.
We are pleased that SWT is taking Cecilia’s complaint to the company seriously and that a manager is to visit her to hear about her experiences first-hand. An investigation is being held into what happened and SWT has already apologised to her.
Although we should not pre-judge the outcome of the company’s inquiries, it seems clear that important lessons need to be learned – and that in future people like Cecilia are treated with dignity and respect.