A 37 year old mother of three from Hornchurch has spoken about her horrific ordeals trying to use public transport as a wheelchair user.
Catherine Manning has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since she was 12 years old, an auto immune condition that can cripple every joint in your body.
“It is not just a joint disease, it effects every aspect of your daily life and using public transport can be a nightmare,” Catherine told The Enquirer.
If she wants to take a trip into London, Catherine has to plan her whole journey beforehand.
“Hornchurch tube station has no lift and no ramp, it is not accessible for people with disabilities. The majority of the district line stations are not accessible, the staff at Hornchurch are quite rude and don’t help, they just tell you the station is not accessible,” continued Catherine.
“The stations have a lot of stairs and not many have lifts or ramps. If I use my wheelchair I have to have someone with me to help me throughout my journey. I can’t travel during the rush hour as I get knocked over, so every journey I travel on I have to plan in advance.
“My quality of life is severely affected by this. With the school holidays coming up I want to be able to bring my children to the museums in London but to plan a trip like that is a military operation and sometimes I have to let my husband go alone as I cant use the stations,”
The Hornchurch mum can also struggle on buses as the space is often limited. “If mum’s have put their pushchairs in the space on the bus, there is often no room for a wheelchair and I can’t say to a mum with her child, can you get off so I can get on.
“The space on buses is very limited and if I sit in the disabled section without my sticks, elderly people can be quite rude and ask me to move. My 9 year old son has been diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome and suffers on buses, so I tell him to sit in the disabled space and when he does, elderly people are very rude to him, telling him young people have no manners and he often gets up to help others when he is in pain himself. ”
Catherine would like to see more understanding from people out there, “I would like to see a bit of consideration towards others, the ‘please offer your seat’ badges are great but unfortunately people are in their own bubble and sit there on their phone or iPod and rarely look up to see if anyone needs any help.
“Neither the buses or stations are designed for wheelchair uses and now they are spending lots of money to build the new Crossrial station and none of these are accessible for wheelchair users,” she added.
Catherine feels that her freedom is often taken away from her. “My independence is taken away from me, I don’t have the quality of life I should have and its is a nightmare for my husband, we want the ability to go out like every other family.”