Disabled woman slams ‘insulting’ lift closures on DLR

PUBLISHED: 13:30 18 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:49 18 October 2016

Louise, centre, is a journalist and disability rights campaigner. Photo by Ruth Medjber

Louise, centre, is a journalist and disability rights campaigner. Photo by Ruth Medjber

A wheelchair user has told how she almost missed a plane because of problems with disabled access at Canning Town station.

Louise speaking at the Disability Federation of Ireland. Photo by Paul Sherwood.Louise speaking at the Disability Federation of Ireland. Photo by Paul Sherwood.

Louise Bruton thought she had plenty of time to catch her 8.25pm London City Airport flight to Dublin on Sunday, October 9.

After all, she had left three hours to make the journey from Stoke Newington, and would be using the DLR, where all stations have step-free access.

At first, things went smoothly enough, although the Irish journalist and disability campaigner joked to some fellow passengers: “If a lift was broken, I would be screwed.”

At Bank, Louise discovered that due to DLR repairs she would need to catch a replacement bus service from Canning Town, but as there was a lift to ground-level, this should have been simple enough.

But when she arrived at the station, her earlier quip came true.

“The lift was working but they couldn’t turn it on because they didn’t have anyone to monitor it,” Louise said.

The situation was doubly frustrating because the 29-year-old could actually see the bus she needed to catch.

“Because I’m not a Londoner I was really relying on the staff to help me come up with an alternative route,” Louise explained, and a Transport for London (TfL) worker called Geri spent 15 minutes plotting a new journey for her. They decided Louise needed to go back on herself to find a DLR station with a working lift to catch the replacement bus.

Louise said Geri “went above and beyond to help,” and travelled onward with Louise in case she ran into any more obstacles – which she did.

“Everything went wrong that could have gone wrong, but it only affected me, because I’m a wheelchair user,” Louise said.

“We got to Blackwall and the bus wasn’t stopping there, so I got an Uber and arrived at 8.01pm when my plane was due to leave at 8.25pm.”

TfL paid for the Uber car, and Louise found staff helpful but said the situation very frustrating.

“It’s incredibly disrespectful to promise something then not provide it,” she said. “There’s such a lack of lifts on the Tube, so when you rely on the DLR then find the lifts aren’t accessible, it’s quite insulting.”

Brian Woodhead, TfL’s operations director, said: “We apologise to Louise for her experience at Canning Town earlier this month despite the best efforts of our station staff. We strive to make the Tube as accessible as we can, and will fully investigate why the lift was out of service.”

A spokesperson added that it was TfL policy to pay for alternative transport for customers who need step-free access when lifts are out of service.


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