Our visit to Australia using a wheelchair to get around six big cities has been a heart warming experience. Visiting Darwin,Brisbane,Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth we found staff in museums and galleries and the Northern Territories Parliament extremely helpful. Pavements had dropped kerbs and public transport was disabled friendly with spaces for wheelchairs on trains.
It was therefore completely unexpected and out of character when we ran into trouble on the Adelaide metro system – not with the train but its driver.
Each four coach metro train has two carriages with spaces for wheelchairs. On the way back at Adelaide City station I put Margaret in the nearest carriage and as the platform was level with the train it was no problem. When we reached the terminus Outer Harbor where the QM2 was docked the train is higher than the platform so I expected the driver to put down a ramp.
“You have got in the wrong disabled carriage”
We saw him put a ramp down for a wheelchair in a carriage nearest his cab. And other passengers alerted him to our need. What happened next was unbelievable. He came up to us saying we had got in the wrong disabled carriage and he was not going to let us out.Instead he said he was going to lock us in and we would have to return to the City station – a 40 minute journey – and start again He said he did this to other disabled passengers if they broke the rules.
There followed a short stand off as I refused to take my finger off the button that kept the door open before he finally relented and said as we were visitors to Adelaide he would put a ramp down but we were not to do it again This took less than 5 minutes but he still complained that he had lost part of his meal break.
The situation was all the more worrying because we had only 20 minutes to board the boat and if he had sent us back we would be stranded in Adelaide.
This has had a good ending. I decided to complain to the metro authority using their website It was easy to use and contained information so I could identify the exact train service. They promised to reply within ten days but replied in three thanking me for providing accurate information. Not only did I receive an apology for the distress but they said they had identified the driver and given him a talking to. They also said appropriate action had been taken against him.
This restored my faith in the way the authority handled the complaint and made us feel disabled people were respected there.
It was also good to see the authority taking the issue seriously and replying promptly. There were no quibbles and I hope the individual reflects on his egregious behaviour and no longer thinks he can treat disabled people in this uncaring and disrespectful way.