It seems to me that all of a sudden having a buggy, not necessarily with a child in it equates to having some form of disability that requires the owner of the buggy to sit in a priority seat.
Let me explain I am a guide dog owner, because I can’t drive I use public transport a lot mostly busses but from time to time trains and even ferries.
My guide dog Gus is rather large, he weighs 35kg (more than 10kg heavier than my mum’s guide dog) and more to the point in this case he has a very long body.
He has been trained like all guide dogs are to lay under a standard seat on a bus but here lies a problem if I do this with Gus his head sticks out or he is forced to spend an entire journey in the sit position.
The solution is for me to sit in the space on the bus designed to accommodate a wheelchair.
At this point I wold like to categorically say I would have absolutely no problem in moving for a wheelchair user.
I do have a problem when I am asked to move by the bus driver so that someone can park there buggy in the space then get there child out of the buggy and go and sit down further along the bus!
That has happened twice at least in the last two weeks but I do have another option for finding Gus somewhere to lay in comfort where his head will not be trampled in.
Another place with more space is the back of the bus next to the emergency door to allow people to get through the door there is almost double the foot space and is another perfect spot for Gus.
So if there is a wheelchair user or already a buggy on the bus I will head for that seat. I regularly have to explain to people and ask them to move 99% of the time this is fine I feel awful about it but its ok but every now and again I get someone who just then hurls abuse at me.
Here lies the problem on Tuesday I got on the bus behind a lady who admittedly had 3 children with her and a buggy. I though to myself its fine there is no one else on the bus I can go and sit at the back. Unfortunately this woman was ahead of me and preceded to get her child out of the buggy park it in the wheelchair space and then go and sit with her children at the back. In this situation I had to explain the issue and ask her to move – I felt awful asking a woman with 3 kids to move when it was a totally empty bus but I had to put the safety of Gus first.
Also on Tuesday I got the train luckily I was only on it for an hour because I had to stand up the whole way. The primary reason for this was a woman with a child and a buggy, the child was sitting on the seat doing some colouring there was a shelf right next to her she could have folded the buggy up and put it there, train staff offered to help her do this. The woman point blank refused to move.
So why am I telling you all this?
As I’ve already hinted theses spaces which have now been commandeered for buggy’s or pushchairs started out life as spaces for wheelchair users, thus they where designed with disabled people in mind. I am a disabled person so you would think there would be a natural assumption that I could sit there and it would not be a problem for me to sit in the larger priority seat but no I’m not disabled enough however someone with a buggy defiantly is.
I also wonder what these people do when a wheelchair user wants to get on the bus – actually I know last week I witnessed a wheelchair user being refused access to a First Hampshire bus in Southampton because there was a buggy in the wheelchair space. I was sickened by this! The whole point of that space is that a wheelchair user cannot necessary hop out of there wheelchair fold it up and then get on the bus a buggy can simple.