Hi, my name is Yulia. My role here at Disability Equality Scotland is Social Media and Communications Intern.
Since it’s my very first post to the Hub, I thought I’d give you a quick summary of my goals which include:
- Writing regular blog posts and sharing news on accessibility in Scotland;
- Publishing compact case studies about most recent projects carried out by Access Panels.
I’m very pleased and grateful to my team for giving me this opportunity to engage with the disabled community. Although progress is being made to make cities accessible, disability as a condition remains a largely underserved topic.
Social organisation and media revolve around non-disabled society, resulting in awkwardness and a lack of education around disabled people. Just a few news articles from the last decade can help to imagine the big picture:
- In 2014, 67% of British public was “uncomfortable” and feared to say “the wrong thing” to disabled people;
- In 2018, 41% of disabled people reported feeling undervalued, with some quitting their activities because of “other people’s attitudes”;
- In 2021, a famous TikTok user was suspected in faking Tourette Syndrome and ended up being “bullied off” the platform.
At least the first one comes from a slightly better place than others. People are afraid to come off as a little uneducated. Nobody wants to make themselves look bad. However, the consequences of avoiding disabled people were nonetheless harmful because it spread baseless fear around them. In reality, it wasn’t and still isn’t about getting everything right – it is about learning and improving.
It’s also important to remember that good intentions are a theory while their consequences are practice. It’s what you end up doing that leaves the footprint, not what you intend to do. Fortunately, fighting this fear of saying the wrong thing is easier than you might think: be realistic about your knowledge limits and speak to disabled people the same you would talk to others. Comedian Rosie Jones spoke up on it in her recent BBC interview, concluding that “it’s about being a decent human being”.
The second article shows that laws do not guarantee major social changes as is turns out with the Equality Act 2010. It gave better overall protection and enforced rights of disabled people, but were those legal advancements made enjoyable? According to the report published by UN in 2017, new policies and measures are welcome but their implementation raises concerns.
Finally, a few words on a rather modern “trend” faking disabilities on social media to gain audience. The article I included covers the case of a famous TikToker who, according to the internet community, was pretending to have Tourette Syndrome. I’m being careful with my wording because a bit of researching shows that the background of that person is a grey area. Still, the outrage it caused seems to have been one of those ticking time bombs waiting to explode.
Most will agree that internet gave humanity lots of opportunities to create great things. At the same time, an equal if not larger amount of questionable actions erupted from it as well. Faking illnesses for money or simply attention is but one of them. Moreover, faking mental illnesses is more common than imitating visible syndromes which non-disabled viewers may find frightening. If it’s aesthetically non-disturbing, some influencers are willing to lie to earn sympathies. Diverse as it is, social media also presents new ways to devalue different kinds of disability.
With my passion for learning and writing, I hope to clear up misunderstandings caused by cases like these.
£4M PROJECT TO ADD STEP-FREE ACCESS AT ANNIESLAND STATION BY 2024
Scotland’s Railway announces it will install lifts to improve accessibility at Anniesland train station
This news excited me because I lived in Anniesland for half a year. I moved there with my university flatmate in the best student fashion – by train and loaded with bulky bags in September 2022. That was my first meeting with intricacies of the local station.
Right now Anniesland has one of the best transportation links. For an area where you go home rather than meet people, it’s very well-connected with the city centre by bus via Great Western Road and by the railway.
Anniesland station has not just two but three routes – to and out of the centre and a direct train to Glasgow Queen Street every 30 minutes from platform 3. Only the platform that goes to the city centre and Glasgow Queen street has ramps.
Opened in 1874 and renamed Anniesland in 1931, it is 149 years old. Yet step-free access to the platform is only available towards the city centre.
In the most recent newsletter, I introduced myself as a fan of ‘casual nonsense’ like cars parked on pedestrian crossings. It shouldn’t happen but keeps happening anyway.
As a communications intern, I want to bring forward similar nonsense that disabled people face daily. Inconveniences are often hidden in plain sight, though in Anniesland’s case it’s obvious even to an untrained eye.
I know that the infrastructure can be imperfect because disability as a condition didn’t exist at the time of construction.
Fact: hospitals had put “those with significant physical impairments” in the same wards as chronically sick and elderly in Britain in the 1950s.Library and Learning Services of Staffordshire University
It’s also an example of what we’d describe as ‘ableist’ society where non-disabled people make all the calls. There is hardly any way the architecture of those times would consider disability did disabled people not raise their voices.
Coming back to Anniesland, the whole step-free issue seems like a small problem to a non-disabled person (“just avoid it”) until you really think about the implications. Such as:
- How do you get to the next station, Westerton, from Anniesland?
- How do you simply get off the train if you live or work in Anniesland?
The answer “just don’t go there” doesn’t fit because it puts the problem on shoulders of the visitor. It sounds reproachful unless the location in question is the nuclear test site in Nevada. There’s no satisfying option neither since only the platform towards the city centre has step-free access. First obvious solution is to get to the station where lifts are available.
At this point I’m cornered to confess that I’m not a disabled person myself. My guess on how to overcome certain obstacles might lack experienced sophistication. Right now I’d prefer having a guide that lays out accessibility points across all stations to plan my trip.
After some digging, I found that there is a whole British railway accessibility map. I’m unsure about the speed at which it is being updated. I can’t vouch for whether a broken lift will be reported within an hour or a day. However, it shows British railway accessibility in a nutshell and that’s exactly what I need.
If you need lifts to get off, you will have to ride 1 stop to Westerton, use a lift there, then pack your hat for your trip back to Anniesland, off-train. Same with getting on. Simply saying, if you want to use platform 1 at Anniesland, the answer is you can’t.
But good news is around the corner as Scotland’s Railway announces a new project to install lifts at Anniesland. It’s going to be a modern, so much needed step-free implementation to an otherwise fantastic station.
Scotland’s Railway aim to begin construction works this September and finish by next summer or autumn. Disability Equality Scotland looks forward to learning more about this project on 15 August. Network Rail will hold a public information event with the opportunity to give an interview and answer questions.