This is Renay – @fn_feminist on Instagram. She came into Melbourne Friday, from country Vic, to treat her child. They stayed in a hotel, did fun stuff in the city, had dinner with me.
Renay is a wheelchair user. She got to the station with an hour to spare on Friday afternoon. As the V-Line train was about to depart, the driver would not put the ramp down for her. The train departed without them. The next train was in 20 minutes but not wheelchair accessible. They had to wait 45 minutes for another accessible train.
Renay was apologetic and flustered when she arrived at the restaurant. I told her not to apologise.
She said to me that life is so hard. She wishes she could just get on with her day, without interruptions and discrimination.
On Saturday when leaving Melbourne, a Metro Trains driver refused to put the ramp down. She asked another Metro train driver to put the ramp down for her, and he said only if she says please. She doesn’t have to say please to get on the train – especially when she’s already been discriminated against.
She also told me that the NDIS was supposed to approve a new wheelchair which would enable her to get on the train without assistance. That was due last November, it hasn’t happened yet.
My heart broke for her.
Her children should not have to see her encountering discrimination and being so upset.
This is every day ableism. Micro aggressions and discrimination that mounts up to make you weary and make you question if it’s really that big a deal.
But it is a big deal. Discrimination like this ruins days. Disabled people are entitled to travel safely, punctually, and without discriminatory barriers.
Just make a complaint, people say. Complaints are arduous when discrimination happens so often. The forms are prohibitive.
Just get it right, I say. Make public transport physically accessible, and ensure all staff have adequate disability and accessibility training.
Because encountering discriminatory barriers on public transport barriers confirms the low expectations that disabled people have nowhere to be.
Disabled people have a shitload of resilience.It’s the gearing yourself up, anticipating that you will encounter discrimination; and then encountering discrimination that sets you in fight or flight mode – leaving you defeated and angry and tired for days. And I can completely empathise with the toll this discrimination takes. Every disabled person can.
– Write letters of complaint to Metro Trains and V-Line and Public Transport Victoria, sharing this post with them, demanding change for all disabled travelers. Here’s some detailed information about the PTV complaints handling process.
– Write to Victoria’s acting Premier James Merlino
– Write to Ben Carroll MP – Victoria’s transport minister.
In your complaints letters, state what happened – you can link to this post; the dates it happened (12 and 13 March 2021); the stations (Ballarat and Flinders Street); how you felt when you read about Renay; and what you want to see change.
– Write to the NDIS to complain about the delay in Renay’s new wheelchair.
– Share this post to show people what every day ableism looks and feels like.
– Go show Renay some love – her Instagram is @FN_Feminist.
Here’s Renay in her own words – on Friday and Saturday.