A disabled woman was unable to get off a train at one of the few seemingly accessible London stations after staff failed to secure a ramp for her.
Lucy Webster, 22, a freelance writer who uses a powered wheelchair, was trying to get home to Chiswick on Sunday afternoon after spending the day in Brixton.
Webster, who described her journey in a Facebook post, said she was reduced to tears after she was unable to get off at Hammersmith – despite asking a member of Transport for London staff to call ahead and arrange a ramp for her.
But TfL staff failed to meet her at Hammersmith and she was trapped on the train until Acton Town – the next accessible station. Her PA (personal assistant, or carer) was forced to "wedge herself" in the doors until another member of the public pulled the emergency alarm and Webster was able to get off the train.
"I simply began to cry," Webster told BuzzFeed News. "I am a thick-skinned person, but after a very stressful week this was another reminder that society continues to make my life frustrating and difficult as punishment for a faulty body.
"No one should be made to feel that their body makes them unworthy of the treatment afforded to everyone else. I was also just unspeakably angry."
"Even supposedly simple journeys become complete missions," Webster, who has cerebral palsy and also has a speech impediment, said. "I simply do not know what would have happened if I had been alone."
When she finally managed to get off the train, she said she was "too distraught" to speak to staff, but that her father – who had driven out to Acton Town from Chiswick to pick her up – had lodged a complaint.
Webster said although she had been told a TfL investigation had been launched, she was "sceptical" about whether anything would change, and she continued to treat each journey as a "fingers-crossed moment,"
"I and hundreds of disabled people have long campaigned for a better service and there has been little, if any, improvement," she said. "I do not believe that TfL cares. The new mayor promised action but I haven't heard of any real improvement."
It is the latest example of an incident on a transport network that campaigners say does not allow disabled individuals to travel freely. Last month campaigners protested TfL, saying there were eight stations which were totally inaccessibly to wheelchair users.
Transport for All, a campaigning group advocating for better disability access, condemned the lack of support for disabled individuals on public transport.
"The experiences of Lucy are a shocking example of what happens when there are not enough staff to support disabled people when traveling," Transport for All director Faryal Velmi told BuzzFeed News.
She said she knew many disabled individuals who had "lost confidence to travel all together" because of experiences like Webster's. She added that it was vital that investment was channelled towards making stations more accessible – and that it was also "crucial" that staff levels were kept up to prevent incidents like this happening.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Steve White, operations director for London Underground, apologised for Webster's journey and said her "dreadful experience was totally unacceptable".
"We are urgently investigating what went wrong so that we can learn from it and prevent it from happening again," he said.
"There is much more for us to do to make services more accessible to all Londoners, including making sure there is always a member of staff available to assist and providing good information when lifts go out of service. We are recruiting hundreds more staff to help deliver this and we are also working hard to increase the number of step-free accessible stations on the Tube network.”
Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at Rose.Buchanan@BuzzFeed.com.
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