An interview with: Merryn Thomas

Merryn is 25 and works as a course coordinator at Back Up, an organisation that provides information and support for those affected by spinal cord injuries.

 

At age 18, a blood vessel burst in her neck resulting in paralysis from the waist down. Merryn is a full time wheelchair user who loves living in London!

 

Where is your favourite place to go out in London?

My favourite place to go out in London is really anywhere around the Clapham, Balham or Tooting area. This is mainly because I live South West and it means I don’t need to worry too much about getting home.

There’s always a night bus that I know won’t take forever and a taxi won’t cost too much. I don’t often go out out in central as it’s so expensive and it’s such a nightmare getting home. Accessibility of clubs is an issue as well. The fear of travelling all the way into central to find a club is inaccessible is pretty off-putting.

 

What is your favourite mode of transport to use in London?

My favourite mode of transport in London is probably the tube but unfortunately I can’t use it as much as I’d like to due to it being so inaccessible.

You get to know which stations are useable so you can plan your way around them but if just one lift is out of order on your route it can really ruin your plans and add hours to your journey – something that no able-bodied person would ever have to experience!

I tend to use a mixture of trains and buses depending on where I need to go. Luckily I live near an accessible station so I’ve always got a good starting point. It’s just really frustrating that a journey that might be so simple and quick for an able bodied person will be so much longer and more complicated for a wheelchair user.

I also use black cabs more than most people would if there is no quick and easy route to where I’m going.

 

What is your favourite tourist attraction in London?

My favourite tourist attraction is probably the V and A – I’m a sucker for an afternoon wandering around museums and they have the best café.

 

What is your favourite sport?

My favourite sport is rugby. I go to watch it live with friends from work when I can but I have been loving the 6 nations from the pub or my sofa too.

I’ve also just started playing wheelchair rugby which is an awesome way to get in some weekly exercise and meet new people. I have to travel all the way to Brighton for this though as there is no team in London that trains on weekends.

 

What do you think could be the biggest improvement in London’s level of accessibility?

For me the biggest accessibility improvement would be to make the tube fully accessible. It’d literally change my life so much for the better. Saying that…I think one more abstract improvement would be to change attitudes towards disability.

I encounter ‘can’t do’ attitudes all the time with train guards refusing to help with a ramp or bus drivers refusing to let me on board when there’s clearly plenty of space. They just can’t be bothered to take that little bit more time but they don’t realise the effect it can have on my whole day.

Luckily I’ve learnt to be very vocal and am not afraid to stand up for myself but other people might not be so comfortable with this. I’d say people assume that I don’t have anywhere that I need to be – I’m disabled…how could I possibly have a full time job, or friends, or a life?!

Find out more about levels of accessibility on London transport!

 

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