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Sat, 06 Sep, 2014 12:01:49 AM
FTimes-STT Report, Sept 6
 
Photo – Lehtikuva.
The physically disabled are faced with challenges when it comes to using public transport, says Amu Urhonen, chair of Kynnys ry, a human rights organisation for the disabled.
 
Urhonen says she does not own a car and travels by train between Tampere and Helsinki a number of times a week, but, still, the public transport has a lot of room for improvement.
 
In many trains, the space reserved for wheelchairs and strollers for pushing children are the same and the space itself is very small, reflects Urhonen.
 
Urhonen has a small child and she admits that travelling with the child is at times challenging. Getting through to the children’s play-cart in the upper deck is not possible and accessing the restaurant cart is out of the equation as well.
 
Urhonen says that despite the narrow size of her wheel chair she still does not deem the new DuettoPlus compartment accessible, contrary to the promise made.
 
The size of the wheel chair is also a factor. The electric wheel chairs are often bigger in size and heavier than the manually operated wheel chairs.
 
“I have witnessed situations whereby a wheel chair user asked the conductor to help with the bags but the answer was (one) should have one’s own helper,” says Urhonen reminding that not everyone has a right to a helper.   
 
The physically disabled are faced with difficulties in travelling without prior planning, unless they use their own cars, adds Miia Hirsikangas-Haataja, an activist of the organisation.
 
If a disabled person cannot manage to travel by a bus or a train without any assistance then one has to notify the relevant travel service providers several days in advance.
 
The time limit in case of the national train operator VR Group is two days while for Onnibus, a long distance bus operator, the time limit set is three days.
 
In addition, VR maintains services for the disabled only in 40 out of the 200 stations.
 
Savon Sanomat, a Finnish language daily, on Thursday reported that VR had discontinued offering services for the disabled in the 12 stations in which it had stopped ticket sales. The decision however was rescinded on receipt of feedback on the situation.
 
Disabled passengers using wheel chair hardly travel by buses run by Matkahuolto and OnniExpress. The municipalities also do not cover for the expenses of the disabled in instances where they use taxi services.
 
Hirsikangas-Haataja says she has tried to get a wheelchair for her daughter to be used for a taxi journey to visit her grandmother in Muonio once a year, but the municipality of Oulu insists that public transport should be used.
 
According to Hirsikangas-Haataja, it is impossible to travel to Muonio using public transport, because there is no train service to Muonio and Onnibus does not offer tickets that enable travelling on wheelchair.
 
VR says they are trying to address the issue of accessibility with regard to their new trains. The conductors can also help the passengers.
 
 
 
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