Tag Archives: transport for london

Lockdown and the Visually Impaired

As a registered blind person, I rely on the assistance of others (often strangers) in unfamiliar situations. My guide dog Trigger does an excellent job of helping to navigate London’s busy streets safely. He can not, however help me to find the platform in a station I rarely (if ever) use. Consequently I rely on sighted assistance in such situations.

The best way to guide a visually impaired person is to allow them to take your arm, and I have been assisted in this manner more times than I’ve enjoyed hot dinners. However, with the Social Distancing introduced as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, this kind of assistance is, apparently becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Take, for example this email I received in response to my query sent to Transport for London:

“This question has actually been raised and answered already in our FAQs for station staff. Our intention is to carry on assisting Visually Impaired People in every situation. We will continue to provide assistance when asked, escort VIPs to platforms and onto trains, and also radio ahead for assistance at destinations whenever requested.

The two metre distancing rule will indeed mean we have to avoid direct contact and will make it harder to escort customers within stations, so extra time should be allowed for this. Nevertheless we will continue to do it as best we can.”

Just how (applying the 2 metre rule) will a visually impaired person be prevented from falling over obstacles, tripping on escalators etc?

Whilst I do, of course recognise the need for TFL employees to remain free (so far as is humanly possible) of Corona, I can’t help but wonder whether the use of a mask by employees, coupled with the changing of overalls after having conducted the visually impaired person would not be a more practical and sensible solution. Indeed if the visually impaired individual takes a bare arm, then the application of soap or hand sanatiser after the guidance has taken place would, surely be sufficient to prevent the possibility of COVID infection?

If any scientists happen to read this post, I would be interested to know your thoughts. In particular what are the possibilities of COVID being passed from a customer to a member of station staff (or, indeed the other way around) in what is, almost always a transaction of a few minutes?

Whilst walking through the woods yesterday, a gentleman offered his arm and helped me to pass some fallen branches which were blocking the woodland track. This response heartened me and contrasts quite starkly with the beurocratic position adopted by TFL and (doubtless) other service providers.

Of course the gentleman and I where in the good fresh air which does, I understand greatly reduce the possibility of passing the virus, particularly if one is in contact with another person only briefly. However this gentleman showed common decency and I’m grateful to him for his act of kindness.

There have been reports of neighbours and others reporting people for breaking social distancing rules. Perhaps the most famous example of this (although I have no idea who tipped off the press, or whether it was down to investigative journalism or muckraking depending on one’s perspective), was the revelation that Neil Ferguson (the scientist who’s work persuaded the government to introduce the lockdown here in the UK) had, himself been breaking social distancing rules.

The government had advised those in a relationship to either move in together (and not change between their respective homes), or to stop seeing one another during the Corona pandemic. However Professor Ferguson (a proponent of lockdown and social distancing) was found to have been seeing his married lover, (see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8289921/Scientist-advice-led-lockdown-QUITS-breaking-restrictions-meet-married-lover.html).

There was, I believe a public interest in publishing the fact that a leading proponent of lockdown was breaking the rules which he himself was advocating. However would I, personally report a neighbour if I became aware that they where seeing people in their home who did not form part of their household?

The answer to the above question is no. Whilst I am, of course concerned about Corona, I don’t wish to live in a society where (as in the former East Germany/the German Democratic Republic) or Nazi Germany, people inform on their neighbours. To me someone beating their partner (or a child) is a very good reason for calling the police, but that same man (or woman) seeing friends, a partner who doesn’t live with them, or a casual lover is not. To me what goes on behind the closed doors of a person’s home is no concern of mine (apart from the exceptions outlined above).

Kevin

TFL Limerick

Thank you to Shital Shah for her poem, “TFL Limerick”. For anyone unfamiliar with London’s transport system, Transport for London (TFL) is the body with overall responsibility for the capital’s transport. You can find out more about TFL at their website here (https://tfl.gov.uk/).

Strong winds or heat,
Rain, snow or sleet.
Engineering works or strike actions,
Perhaps a leaf causing disruptions.
Whatever the reason, TfL simply can’t defeat.

 

*Inspired by Thursday’s weather and travel troubles. Londoners will sympathise.

Uber driver fined for refusing to take a working guide dog

Its encouraging to see that the Uber driver in this case was heavily fined for refusing to take a guide dog thereby flouting the law. More power to Jade’s elbow (Jade being the guide dog owner involved). As a guide dog owner I have on numerous occasions experienced discrimination by private hire drivers (I have never used Uber) and I am all in favour of heavily fining those who refuse to comply with their legal obligations by refusing to convey guide dog owners together with their working dogs. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3556274/Uber-driver-fined-1550-refusing-accept-blind-woman-guide-dog.html).

People caught reading on London Underground to be fined £5 as from 1 April

Yesterday evening I met a friend who works for Transport for London. After a few pints he confided in me that London Underground will be introducing fines for those found to be reading books on the tube. According to my friend who, for obvious reasons wishes to remain anonymous, there have been many accidents caused by commuters so absorbed in their reading matter they have failed to notice the person closest to them and poked them in the eye with a book, newspaper or magazine. There is also, he says an issue with people missing their stop due to being engrossed in a good (or bad) book (good and bad are, after all subjective terms).
Consequently as from today (April 1st)anyone caught reading on the tube will be subject to an on the spot fine of £5 (if paid by cash rather than card this will be reduced to £4.50). My friend believes that this will enhance the customer experience of those traveling on London Underground. Rather than taking refuge in a book or paper commuters may, actually talk to their fellow passengers! The idea does, he says have the added advantage of creating employment as a significant number of “Book Banners” will be required to enforce the policy.
What do you, my readers think of the idea? Will it work? Is it a good one? How would you feel where you to be subjected to a fine of £5 for reading on the tube?

Kevin

Discrimination By Taxi Driver Who Refused To Convey Me With My Guide Dog Trigger

In the United Kingdom it is an offence under the Equalities Act 2010 for a taxi driver and/or a company to refuse to convey an assistance dog owner accompanied by their working animal (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/legislation/equality-act-2010). As those of you who follow this blog will know, I am a registered blind guide dog owner. This post is about the discrimination I encountered on 27 October when a taxi driver from Station Cars refused to convey me and my guide dog Trigger.

Responsibility for ensuring taxi companies comply with their legal obligations to convey assistance dog owners, accompanied by their working animals rests with the Public Carriage Office, (https://www.tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-and-private-hire/). I reported the issue on 27 October however I have, to date received no feedback from PCO regarding my complaint other than an automated acknowledgement that it had been received by them. I have chased, several times (including via recorded delivery). However I have yet to receive a response from the PCO.

I have thus far refrained from blogging about the incident in the hope that it could be resolved via the PCO. However given the inordinate amount of time things are taking I have determined to blog about the incident in order to highlight it and the difficulties faced by myself and other assistance dog owners.

I have reproduced below my e-mail to PCO (withholding my address and that of the witnesses to the incident for reasons of privacy).

 

Text Of E-Mail From Kevin Morris To PCO Sent On 27 October 2014

 

“Dear Sir/Madam,

Further to my conversation with (name redacted) of today’s date, I am
writing to complain regarding the failure of Station Cars (vehicle
registration LC63UBM – a Vauxhall Zafira) to convey me and my guide
dog Trigger from my home (address redacted). to (address redacted)

At the time of the incident my guide dog was wearing his distinctive
harness clearly marking him as a working guide dog.
At approximately 7:40 am on Monday 27 October I telephoned Crystal
Cars and requested a car to convey me and my guide dog to (address redacted). The firm advised that the taxi would be with me
for around 8:15 AM.
At about 8:20 am a driver arrived from Station Cars and refused to
convey me and my guide dog. I explained that under the Equalities Act
he was obliged to take guide dogs when accompanied by their owners. He
said that he had not been informed about the presence of the dog and
contacted his office (Station Cars). Station cars backed up the driver
and on me requesting to speak to them (the driver handed over his
mobile) Station Cars repeated that they where not obliged to convey
guide dogs. The firm further confirmed that the booking had been
passed to them by Crystal Cars owing to Crystal Cars not having a
driver available.
My neighbour, (name and address redacted) and her daughter, (name redacted) spoke with the driver and tried to
reason with him. However he remained adamant that he wouldn’t convey
me and my guide dog. (Name redacted) then took the driver’s details as set
out above.
I subsequently contacted Crystal Cars who apologised for the incident
and sent another car which arrived quickly.
To recap. The initial booking was made with Crystal Cars who due to
not having any drivers available passed on the booking to Station
Cars. It was a driver from Station Cars and Station Cars themselves
who refused to convey me and my guide dog. The dog was wearing his
distinctive harness so it was crystal clear that he was a working
guide dog. I would be grateful if you could please investigate the
actions of Station Cars and the driver in question.
Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to
contact me.

tours Faithfully

Kevin Morris