A fine for poor service is fine enough, but training and awareness is what we should aim for

Ruth Owen by Ruth Owen
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Hot on the heels of our young people’s success at the Welsh Assembly last week, the team at Whizz-Kidz read with interest the news that taxis and private hire drivers who refused to pick up wheelchair users – or attempt to charge them more for transporting them – could be fined up to £1,000 under new discrimination laws.

Naturally, we welcome any initiative designed to improve wheelchair users’ experiences of public transport; we know from the young people we work with that taxis are often the only mode of transport they can rely on, but it is a shame that wheelchair users rely on the threat of a significant fine to ensure the service they receive is accessible and dignified.

When we launched our Get on Board public transport campaign in 2015, we were determined to work alongside travel operators to help them improve accessibility to their services and disability awareness for their teams. This has proven a successful model, and on that encourages a culture of inclusivity, rather than one that relies on punishment to make its point.

I read with distress this week the news from Scope that more than half of disabled people in the workplace had experienced bullying or harassment. We know from our own young people that for disabled people, getting into the workplace to begin with is challenging enough; that they should face discrimination once they are there is wholly unacceptable.

With the Government’s Green Paper on transforming employment prospects for disabled people in the workplace currently in consultation, this very important piece of research shines a worrying light on the experiences of disabled people at work, and one which we hope will pave the way to significant improvements to the way disabled people are treated.

It has been encouraging to see commitment from the Government on another transport-related issue I’ve written about in this blog recently; that of access to toilets on trains. Rail Minister Paul Maynard has – rightly – demonstrated that he and the Government are taking this issue seriously; we will continue to watch with interest, and encourage you to share your experiences – good and bad – with us so that we, too, can ensure this issue remains on the agenda. 

Finally, we celebrated our Young Leaders’ Week here at Whizz-Kidz HQ last week, and were glad of the opportunity to highlight the exceptional commitment and hard work of the young people who’ve completed, or are currently undertaking, our Young Leaders’ Programme. Our own Young Leaders were challenged to think about what leadership means to them; we had fantastic blogs from Kidz Board alumni and Wales Ambassador Ayesha Khan about her experiences in becoming a Young Leader, and from James Dunn, who described how he faced the challenge of learning to drive to grow his independence. The young people we work with continue to inspire me every day; their stories remind me just how important the work we do here at Whizz-Kidz is.

Thank you all, as always, for your very many tweets, emails and letters. Your continued support of Whizz-Kidz’s work is absolutely amazing.

Until next time.

Ruth

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