Cheltenham’s MP, Alex Chalk, has this week pledged his support for a new national campaign calling for more accessible travel and transport for young wheelchair users. Mr Chalk’s intervention follows the release of a report by disabled children’s charity Whizz-Kidz, which found 70% of wheelchair users and their families and carers are not able to travel as independently as they would like to and over 65% do not feel confident enough to use public transport.
Outlining his support for the initiative, Cheltenham’s man in Westminster said accessible travel and transport has the ability to revolutionise the way young wheelchair users travel to work or school, go to appointment, socialise and visit family.
“While access to transport has improved a great deal over the last twenty years, inaccessible transport is still preventing many young wheelchair users from living full lives. That’s why I’m supporting Whizz-Kidz’s campaign – because I believe wheelchair users should be able to travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else. I’m calling on local travel and transport providers and my constituents to ‘Get on Board’ and think about the changes they can make to help achieve this,” Alex Chalk MP said.
George Fielding, Chair of the Whizz-Kidz Kidz Board, said: ‘‘We are delighted that Alex Chalk MP was able to join us this week to hear about our experiences of transport and our recommendations for improving things. We simply would not be able to transform the lives of young wheelchair users without the support of MPs such as Alex Chalk MP. Together, we can make a real difference.’’
The Whizz-Kidz campaign is calling for:
o Improvements to infrastructure, information and facilities so that the network is more accessible for wheelchair users.
o The general public to respect young wheelchair users’ right to travel so that they do not feel scared to travel alone.
o Regular and meaningful disability awareness training so that staff working in transport have a better understanding of the needs of young wheelchair users, which will support them to best assist young disabled travellers.
o Involvement of young disabled people in the planning, auditing and design of services and policies so that their voices are heard at all levels.
o Representation of young wheelchair users in travel marketing materials so that people can see what young wheelchair users can do, not what they can’t!
To spearhead change, Whizz-Kidz recently formed a national Accessible Travel Alliance – an industry leading group made up of forward-thinking travel operators, to make a real and lasting difference to disabled people’s experience of travel. Alliance partners who have signed up to the Get on Board campaign include Gatwick, Heathrow, National Express, OmniServ, Stagecoach and Transport for London.