The last time this rider laughed at magic markers on the floor was the famous opening scene of Blues Brothers where Jake isn’t allowed past the line on his discharge from prison. I can laugh at that because no one really believe that lines drawn on the ground have any power. Or do they?
In previous blog entrys, I praised the efforts of Queensland Bus and Rail when it came to the handling of the disabled but alas I spoke too soon. See I got all excited when I arrived at a station and there were brand new, state of the art, clean smelling disabled access elevators and every bus or train had a version of a ramp, whether a man comes out and greets you or it comes out from the body of a kneeling bus. I found that amazing and wrote a wonderful review, but then I moved out to a country town and a station in the middle of no where on the Sunshine Coast. It was then I started to notice their fascination with magical squares and circles. You see, its very reminiscent of George Carlin’s iconic routine A Place to Keep Your Stuff. You, an unsuspecting wheelchair user rolls innocently onto a platform to await your train. Then a booming voice screams out “you must be on the blue square. We put it there for a reason.” After realizing its not God speaking to me, but simply a rail employee, I searched frantically to find that YES, there was a blue square with a stick figure in a wheelchair painted in the middle. Quickly rushing over in the my chair to occupy it, still not sure if it was God or the station master and therefore not wanting to upset either, I sheepishly inquire “what is the significance of the square.” In a very stern voice it was explained to me that is where I was expected to board the train.
Then the train arrives and I, like a good girl, was still sitting on the square and hear a whistle and a distant “hey you” (again not God). I turn to see a person holding up a folded up ramp yelling “what are you doing up there mate, you gotta board down this end.” I point to the square and point to the station master saying “I was told not to move.” The conductor replied “if your gettin on this train you better get you ass here.” Sheepishly but quickly I roll to the other end of the train platform (still not sure if wasn’t God and expecting a lightening bolt any second for having dared to leave the square) and inquire of him why I had to leave the square and come to him. He replied “cause this is the special carriage where we load disabled people. ” So with much anticipation of all matter of devices for my safety and comfort, I board the train. Following the conductors stern direction to the disabled section of the carriage. How could I miss it for on the floor I find another painted square with another wheelchair stick figure drawn on it. Thank god I was safetly back in the land of colored squares. Looking around for my devices, the square was it. A handle and any other safety device had long been removed, but hey I had my colored square. So I must be safe.
All jokes aside, really Queensland Bus and Rail, colored circles, squares, blue, yellow, stick figures by the dozen are what you consider safety and security for wheelchair passengers. What inspired this system, Lord of the Rings? If your going to make us jump through hoops getting on and off the train, at least have something worthwhile at the end for our trouble. The NYC bus system, for example, doesn’t allow any wheelchair on any form of public transit unless the user agrees to have their wheels strapped to the floor and wear an over the shoulder belt which are all tightened to minimize chair movement.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble but pretty colors and perfect squares do not protect me or my chair. And to add insult to possible injury, when one of your magic squares fails, like it did today, almost causing this writer to tip out of her chair, all your highly trained staff did was look at me in the mirror, laugh and keep going.
In closing it is the opinion of this writer that next time Queensland Bus and Rail or any other service tries to justify a raise in fare by saying they are increasing the quality of their service, they at least need to guarantee that the service they are providing is at minimum base level. We the wheelchair bound public pay our fare and we get nothing but a painted square on the ground. Perhaps when designing wheelchair safety, I suggest you stop using Dr. Seuss an inspiration!