Wheelchair user refused help at railway station due to staff fears of 'catching coronavirus'

Evie Breese@Evie_Breese
Monday 06 April 2020 10:00
news
(Twitter/ Osayuki/ Getty/iStock/ Indy100)

A woman using public transport over the weekend was allegedly refused help by railway staff due to fears that her wheelchair would infect them with coronavirus.

She claims that station staff told her Southeastern Railway would sack them if they helped disabled passengers.

This is the second time the pharmacist, who goes by Osayuki on Twitter, was denied assistance in boarding the train. She was only helped after her mum threatened to pull the emergency lever.

After a busy day at the pharmacy, this is not how Osayuki deserved to be treated while trying to get home.

Osayuki claims she was told that a member of staff caught coronavirus after helping a wheelchair user and has been "on leave" since.

Despite showing the Southeastern Railway staff an email response from Southeastern assuring her that staff should not refuse assistance due to social distancing, she was informed that they had been threatened with the sack if they did.

In a longer statement posted in a Google document, Osayuki explains:

Disabled people are not the source of the coronavirus and we have been stigmatized.

There should be no reason for staff not to help disabled people making essential journeys during the pandemic.

People were understandably shocked at her experience, and pointed out some pretty obvious flaws in the staff’s justification for withholding assistance.

Some also pointed out that the experience demonstrates how ingrained ableism is in the transport industry.

Southeastern Railway claims that its Assisted Travel service – which must be booked in advance – is available as usual.

A representative for Southeastern Railway told indy100:

If your journey is essential and you need assistance to travel by train, our staff will continue to provide help so that you can get to your destination safely. Our staff have been advised how to safely provide assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, including social distancing and following the government’s hand hygiene advice.

While it's not a requirement to book ahead, we strongly recommend that you contact us to discuss your journey as soon as possible. 

We will do everything we can to help you complete your journey, and while it is not a requirement to do so, you can book ahead on our website or by calling us on the numbers below – which are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People with disabilities face huge obstacles in accessing public transport even under normal circumstances, with one in four avoiding it due to negative attitudes they've experienced.

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