Shocking footage hit the internet this week of disabled commuters struggling to make their way up and down the stairs at Unanderra railway station in New South Wales. Two disturbing videos have been released showing a double amputee missing both his legs, climbing up the staircase backwards, pulling himself up by the handrail with a pained expression. Meanwhile, a stroke victim can be seen making her way up the stairs on the opposite side. In the second video, a man in a wheelchair has to back down the stairs to make his train, also relying on the handrail for safety.
According to Yahoo News, Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian has seen the footage and believes that this is proof that more ramps need to be installed in public transportation zones. This problem extends far beyond New South Wales, as well, as many areas of the world are not completely accessible to disabled people, which can result in extreme difficulty getting to work everyday.
“It’s distressing to see anyone in the community struggle to access public transport – whether they’re elderly, customers with a disability or families with prams,” said Berejiklian. “I want to see every station on the network accessible with ramps or lifts and that’s why since coming to government, we have worked hard to upgrade stations as part of the Transport Access Program. When we came to government nearly two thirds of all stations on the network were not accessible via ramps or lifts.”
It’s unclear whether or not the footage was taken to expose the problem in public transportation zones, where there is clearly a high volume of disabled individuals struggling up and down the stairs everyday. However, despite the transport minister’s acknowledgment of how hard it is to watch these disabled commuters suffer on the staircase, Berejiklian claims the government evaluates which public transportation areas need to be upgraded next based on the evidence of how many commuters stream through.
The footage is not entirely mysterious, however. According to the West Coast Sentinel, the disabled commuters in the videos have been identified. The elderly woman struggling up the stairs in the first video is a well-known Illawarra playwright named Wendy Richardson.
“I have had incredible trouble with the stairs,” Richardson said. “Until I had a hip replaced in June last year, I struggled up those stairs, it would take me ages.”
The stroke victim a few steps below her is a young woman named Bec Schmidt, who says, “I only use the station if I have someone who can assist me. I wouldn’t be able to use it on my own because I have a walking frame that I use when I go out on my own in public. I would not be able to carry that up the stairs and walk up at the same time.”
Since the footage of the disabled commuters climbing the stairs has blown up on the internet, Bec Schmidt has received overwhelming support for a Facebook page she started calling for Elevators for Unanderra Train Station.
“I did not expect to get that much response. It’s been overwhelming and I’m glad to see that so many people are getting on board to support it.”
Do you think disabled commuters should have ramp access available no matter where in the world they go?