Disabled activists are planning a high-profile protest that will highlight the inaccessibility of the public transport system, and demonstrate the problems that will be caused by the government’s cuts to disability living allowance (DLA).
The national day of action on Tuesday, 19 June, is being planned by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and London’s campaigning accessible transport charity Transport for All (TfA).
They point out that an estimated 500,000 disabled people will lose their DLA as a result of government cuts and reforms.
Many of them use their DLA to pay for a car through the Motability scheme or to pay taxi fares, while others receive “passported” benefits as a result of their DLA, such as a blue parking badge or a pass for free public transport.
DPAC and TfA argue that thousands of disabled people will be forced to use an inaccessible public transport system when they lose their DLA.
Their protest will focus on central London, where the aim will be to cause “maximum but legal chaos”, with the hope that it will attract not just hardened activists but also campaigners who do not feel comfortable taking part in more confrontational direction action.
It follows a more traditional direct action protest held in Trafalgar Square last month, in which DPAC activists brought traffic chaos to central London by chaining their wheelchairs across busy pedestrian crossings in protest at government cuts and welfare reforms.
Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group and one of the organisers of next month’s action, said: “People will be forced [by the DLA cuts] back onto a public transport system which doesn’t really cater for their needs.
“We will be exercising our right to use public transport, a system that we are told is accessible, so let’s put that to the test.”
Organisers are also planning a lobby of MPs at the House of Commons, with disabled people then descending on local buses for the short journey to Covent Garden to protest outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the UK’s bus, coach and light rail industries.
They hope that disabled people – and carers, personal assistants and older people – will invite their MPs to join them on the bus trip.
And they are urging those who are unable to make it to London to organise other protests across the UK, which could include inviting their MP to join them on a trip on public transport.
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns and outreach co-ordinator, said: “This is going to be a very inclusive action that hopefully everybody will feel able to join in with.”
She added: “If the government wants to get more disabled people off benefits and into work, the best thing would be for them to focus on opening up transport for everyone.”
For more information about the protest, visit the websites of DPAC or Transport for All. It is hoped that transport “buddies” will be available for disabled campaigners who need someone to accompany them on the protest.