Jayne Dowle: Why we must not stand for selfish people who disregard the disabled

It's time to respect disabled drivers and passengers, says Jayne Dowle.
It's time to respect disabled drivers and passengers, says Jayne Dowle.
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WHATEVER did or did not happen on the 18.03 from King’s Cross to Skipton last week, one thing is clear. In a world of overcrowded trains and the general selfish chaos of modern life, we’ve got to stick up for ourselves.

Cat Lee, a disabled woman from Hebden Bridge, claims that two men “refused” to move from seats she had reserved for herself and her carer, who acts as a travelling companion. Ms Lee, 43, who suffers from crippling pain, was forced to stand on the train for more than an hour.

She was so incensed that she posted pictures of the chaps on social media with the scathing comment: “I’m sure their wives and mothers would be proud of them.”

Good for her. I once told two youths on a train from Leeds to Edinburgh to shift. They had hogged a table reserved by a family with several young children, including one youngster in a wheelchair. The parents looked exhausted already before they even boarded the train. The father said he was prepared to stand all the way – to Edinburgh.

I couldn’t sit there reading my book while this sorry scene unfolded around me so I spoke up, pointed out to the youths that this family had reservations and asked them not to be so unkind. They looked at me through narrowed eyes, but I stood my ground. And then, reluctantly, they shuffled along to the next carriage. I felt a bit like a caped crusader, but I didn’t do it for my own gratification. I simply can’t watch other people being bullied.

My own personal bugbear is selfish able-bodied motorists parking in supermarket bays clearly designated “disabled”. Have they no idea of the problems and pain they cause?

My mother, who suffers from chronic arthritis, has a Blue Badge which enables anyone driving her to park as close to the door as possible. If she walks for any length of time, it takes her the rest of the day – and possibly the day after – to recover. When someone nips into the last remaining disabled bay, thinking only of their own convenience, they need telling.

I do. On a regular basis. I have been known to apprehend a burly bloke who clearly can walk unaided and challenge him as to his right to park in such a bay. If you’re firm and polite and ask to see their (non-existent) badge, they usually back down.

My partner says that I only dare do this because I stand a solid 5ft 10in in my stocking feet. I can be quite imposing when I have to be.

And he’s right. Such is the nature of our violent society, you could be taking your life into your hands if you raise a simple objection. The same applies to tackling those who spit in the street, push in front of a queue and generally exhibit oafish behaviour.

This all illustrates the conundrum. If individuals don’t challenge bad behaviour, it will continue to proliferate around us. What kind of world will we end up with when no one cares about the person next to them because everyone is out for themselves? It’s not a world which I would like my children to grow into.

That’s one of the reasons why I try my best to lead by example. I’m just one woman though. What is needed is a proper volte-face in standards of public behaviour. Individuals are carrying over the way they behave at home into the outside world. Over the years, boundaries between private and public have been blurred.

I’m all for assertiveness, but not when it comes packaged with a sense of entitlement. Too many people think that they deserve their own way. I hesitate to point the finger, but a lot of the blame must go to parents who give in to their children at every turn. Such offspring grow into adults who have no consideration whatsoever for others.

That’s why it’s time we started to re-set the line between acceptable public behaviour and not, adapting it of course for the things that we encounter every day in our busy lives.

Where to start, though? For guidance, I have delved right back to my Sunday School days and come up with this line from the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If this came to pass, there would be no need for women on trains to take a stand, or any of us come to that.

It’s from the Sermon on the Mount, but it would serve as a timely announcement on any form of public transport, in any supermarket and indeed, in any place where people should be compelled to find a way to behave towards each other with grace and kindness.