This post was originally written in 2017. I left it on To Be Edited, and then never got around to it. Posting it now. Keep in mind I only used the local Dial-A-Ride service a handful of times before my wheelchair was broke in 2019, and we’ve been dealing with the pandemic since early 2020. So if the service is different now, I’ve not had the pleasure to experience it yet.
I’ve had to go back to my local dial-a-ride service. I left them because of a multitude of reasons but them accusing me of lying after months of frustration due to poor service, was the straw that broke the camels back.
I’ve had a good four years without them, but in those four years, I’ve seen local transport and taxi service rise and now fall. We are going backwards in access and public attitude and it’s becoming harder, and more expensive, to get anywhere. But, when you look on social media or even hellsites such as Mumsnet, any complaints about poor access to public transport is always met with the patronising suggestion of using Dial-a-ride. Now this is yet another postcode-lottery dependent service, and I myself am ignorant as to whether every area has one or not or had one and lost it recently due to cuts. All I know is, what the service is, is probably nothing what these people imagine it to be.
I have vague memories of writing about this before, but I’m going to summarise again instead of directing people to an old post (because I’m too lazy to find it). You, the user, ring up between 7 and 2 days in advance of when you want to travel. You tell them the time you want to be picked up to go, and the time you want to return. You can travel any time after 8am but your return time has to get you home before 11pm. They ring you up anytime up to the day before you booked to confirm your journey details, and usually offer you an alternative time to the times you booked becuase they have to accommodate other people along the route.
I tried to book a pick up journey at 6:15 and a pick up at 10:30. Straight away I was told that would be too late. Even though all the information for the service says I can book as late as I want to as long as it allows to be dropped home before 11, I was then told by the person I spoke to the cut off time is actually 10pm. But also, they can turn up half an hour either side of that time on the day, so it could have worked in my favour that the driver would arrive for me at half 10… it could also work against me and pick me up a whole hour earlier than I’d like, at half 9. Oh, and I could be on the bus a whole hour between pick up and drop off.
I then got a phone call today to say that my pick up at home would be quarter past 5, which in fact could be as early as quarter to five, and get me to my destination way too early even if I was on board for the full hour. The latest they could offer me for pick up time for the return journey was 8 o’clock, I can’t do the maths on that but that would mean leaving an hour after the gathering of my friends would start, and they stay to midnight. I’m used to missing out some time because of my own health, but leaving before my health dictates is not on, just because the service is not fit for purpose.
But this is what able bodied people suggest we use, just because they do not want to share public services with disabled people.
I wonder what fuss they would kick up if they were told they had to travel half an hour earlier than they needed to, they would have leave two and a half hours early, and they could be on the bus any length time of time between twenty minutes to an hour. I highly doubt they’d just shrug their shoulders and accept it, because no one would want to travel this way! Nobody tries to fulfil social plans by going to train stations or bus stops without knowing what time the train or bus will turn up, or how long their journey is, what route they’re taking, or what time the last bus back is, especially if the last bus back means leaving an hour after the social event starts! It’s ludicrous!
But that’s Dial A Ride. And considering the only service users are disabled poeple, and many disabled poeple have care packages with carers on a time limit, it is really not fit for purpose. It is insulting that able bodied people keep toting it out like it’s a free premium taxi service. They really do not a have bloody clue.