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8:16am on Wednesday, 9th September, 2015:



Here's an anecdote about, ultimately, equality. It concerns events in the village where my mother lives (Great Bentley, which I always think ought to be called Bent Greatly but isn't). As the details are courtesy of my mother, they are subject to wild inaccuracies of understanding and interpretation, plus speculation passed off as fact; however, the gist seems to be right.

So, Bent Greatly is served by a bus and a train service. The train service is pretty good but older people tend to prefer the bus because it stops at more places in Colchester so you don't have to walk so far. For years, the residents of the village have been campaigning to get a bus shelter, in order to wait for the bus out of the rain. The campaign finally bore fruit, and last month the bus shelter was installed. It was front-page news of the (award-winning) Village Bulletin. At last, passengers would be able to wait for the bus without getting cold or wet.

The person who organised the campaign for the bus shelter was treated like a hero, and there was talk of putting a plaque on the bus shelter to thank him for his contribution. Ironically, he himself can't use the bus any more, because the campaign took so long that in the intervening years he became wheelchair-bound and the buses aren't wheelchair-friendly.

Hold on, aren't buses supposed to be wheelchair-friendly?

Well yes, they are. All single-decker buses with more than 22 passenger seats will have to be wheelchair-friendly from 1st January 2016. When this was pointed out to the bus company, they looked at how much it would cost to convert the buses on the route to be wheelchair-friendly, and concluded they couldn't afford it. They were operating the service on a shoestring anyway, and the obligation to be wheelchair-friendly was beyond their means. If they continued to operate the service as it was, though, they would be breaking the terms of their operating licence. As a result, they've announced they're cancelling the service.

The village will have a bus stop but no bus.

Thus, the regulations brought in to ensure equality between able-bodied and wheelchair-using citizens have achieved their goal, and both groups have the same access to the bus service: none.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).