My friend Pete has just been told his vision has deteriorated to the stage where it is no longer safe for him to drive. For many people like Pete, having to give up driving is usually the first step into a world of disability. It can feel like a world of limitations and challenges. Taking this step causes all sorts of emotional reactions throwing even the most reasonable and responsible people into denial and despair. And as both John and Lindsay found out, stepping out of the driver's seat came with a fear of what the future might bring.
Have your say on taxis by joining the Disabled Persons Taxi Advisory Committee. The committee advises the Taxi Services Commission. Individuals and organisations have until 31 January to nominate. Nominees should have a good knowledge of the concerns people with disabilities have about taxis. Country members are welcome. Meetings are held three times a year. So nominate and help improve taxi services for people with disabilities.
Drivers of trams, trains and buses need to learn how to deal with blind people
People who are blind or who have vision impairments tell some of their stories of using public transport. Sometimes the loudspeaker announcements on trains tell these people the wrong station. Sometimes drivers forget to tell these people the right tram stops. Some blind users think that drivers should know their tram and bus routes. Users might try to complain but it doesn't work. Drivers need to learn how to deal with blind people.
My friends were getting married in Melbourne and my girlfriend and I were invited. The wedding was great but we had many problems with multipurpose taxis. The first didn't come. The second was late. But the third was the worst. The driver took us to the wrong house which was another bridal couple's barbecue. It was like suddenly being taken to another world. The people were friendly but not my friends. After getting to the right barbecue, at the end of the night the taxi agency didn't want to pick us up. It was a strange day which I can now laugh about.
Being able to fly alone is important for me. I use a walking frame and get tired easily. It is easier for me to use a wheelchair at airports. When I fly I get help getting on and off the plane. I also need to use oxygen on the plane and this can cost a lot. I chose to fly with Qantas and British Airways when I visited my parents in Israel this year. British Airways do not charge for oxygen. Qantas charges $700 to use their oxygen tanks. On this trip I was happy to have a good flight.
Train travel is often the best way for me to get around Melbourne. With practice I am becoming more confident travelling further from home. Using an electric wheelchair means I am noticed in the crowd. Some people on public transport think it's okay to talk to me and offer advice because I use a wheelchair. I have had people quote words from the Bible. Others think they can use the bar at the back of my wheelchair to rest on. I don't mind when children ask me questions. Sometimes I have interesting conversations. But I usually like to be left alone.
Being blind, I often use public transport. The bus driver always has to tell me when I have arrived at my bus stop. But recently I caught a Smart Bus. A recorded announcement told me the bus number. I could sit, relax and talk to a girl next to me. Each bus stop was announced. I was excited. I could be independent. I waited to press the button for my stop. It was a special moment. I pressed the button, the bus stopped and I thanked the driver. And I say a thank you to everyone involved in the Smart Bus.
A bus at a bus stop next to a train at the train station.
Public transport needs to be accessible.
Access to public transport for people with a disability is difficult in Victoria. The Victorian government wrote a plan to improve accessibility on public transport. The plan was to make improvements from 2006 to 2012. Since 2006, there are now more accessible tram stops. There are more low-floor trams and buses. These changes mean more people with a disability can use public transport. But many of the plan ideas have not been done. Many improvements are still not finished. The government has not spent enough money to improve public transport accessibility.
I use my car every day. It gives me freedom. It is my link to the world. Keeping my car maintained is important. But I need help filling the car with petrol. The Driveway Assist program helps people with a disability. At some service stations you can just honk your horn to get help. Someone will come out and fill your car with petrol. The VACC recommends talking to service, repair and cleaning companies about any needs you might have. It is also a good idea to pay for roadside assistance. Someone will help if your car has a problem.
Travellers Aid provides travel and support services for all Victorians
Travellers Aid has been helping people for 95 years. Travellers Aid today provides a range of services. It helps people with limited mobility. It also provides facilities like showers, baby change and internet access. And Travellers Aid also provides personal care assistants and accessible toilets for people with a disability. I recently visited Travellers Aid at Southern Cross train station in Melbourne. Many people were using the services and facilities. Amy Tingay says Travellers Aid is very important to her. The service has helped her to be more independent.