Deaf wheelchair user left ‘angry and upset’ after train worker ‘refuses to help’

A deaf wheelchair user says he was left “angry and upset” after a train worker allegedly refused to communicate with him on a six-hour journey.

Jasper Williams had boarded the Cross Country service from Bristol to Newcastle when the staff member refused to engage with him by typing on a phone or writing on a piece of paper, he claimed.

The 27-year-old and his fiancé Luke – who also uses a wheelchair – says they were left waiting anxiously in the carriage with no access to food or water.

They also had no idea whether the staff member had organised a ramp for them to disembark at their change-stop in York.

Instead of helping the pair on their journey, Jasper claims the employee discriminated against them and “shouted aggressively”, which left them “scared” as other passengers looked on.

Jasper said: “I felt really angry, and upset with the lack of communication. I don’t like to rely on different people. I want people to communicate with me, it affects me as well.”

Jasper said train staff were meant to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities by providing food and water, as well as organising a ramp at the next station ahead.

But when the employee approached him, Jasper said he felt he was discriminated against as soon as he tried to explain he was deaf.

Jasper said: “I let him know that I was deaf and that was when the problem started.

“Me and my fiancé had got onto the train and were waiting for the train to go. It was at the start of the journey that he came to us.

“He started talking directly to me and I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say to me. I explained that, ‘I’m deaf, could you please write it down for me.’

“Then he turned and started talking directly to my fiancé. I just felt ignored and invisible.”

Jasper claimed that the staff member refused to communicate by writing on a piece of paper or typing on his phone, and became more agitated with the couple.

“The staff started to shout really aggressively towards my fiancé. My fiancé was really quite scared,” he said.

“It made me feel really cross, really angry. It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s my access, it’s my information and they should talk to me directly.

“We told him about options we could try. I thought I was trying to meet him halfway but he wasn’t trying.

“I felt like he was treating my fiancé like a carer. People were turning around on the train, looking at us and looking at what’s happening and the staff just in the end left.

Jasper said the experience on August 8 left him feeling anxious, as he worried there wouldn’t be a ramp at the next stop.

“It would have been impossible for me to get off the train,” he said.

“The train and the platform are on different heights and at different levels. Nobody would have been able to lift me.

“I was just really confused over what was happening and then time went on and it went really, really slowly. I just felt anxious about what was going to happen. Luke felt anxious as well.

“We were booked into the wheelchair-accessible spaces. There was no access to the food, to get food, get a drink, we just had to wait and wait.”

Jasper said that two hours into the journey, a new staff member appeared who confirmed that a ramp had not been organised.

Jasper said: “I said, ‘I’m really not sure, can you please check there is a ramp?’ And at the time, the information hadn’t been passed on so that staff member had to make that phone call and check.”

Jasper said that an investigation needed to be launched and that the staff member should not be working while it was underway.

“I think he should be on suspension while the investigation happens,” he said.

Adding he wants more deaf awareness, Jasper said: “It’s important to me he (staff worker) does get more training, particularly on communication methods because it affected many people – deaf people, nonspeaking people, different disabilities and people who speak different languages.

“It does happen too much, especially when it comes to travelling, public transport, relying on staff, there’s just not enough deaf awareness. It’s such a daily thing, it happens all the time, everyday.

A CrossCountry spokesperson said: “We were sorry to hear about Mr Williams’ experience and are keen for him to get in touch with us formally so that we can investigate this further.

“We take any such complaint incredibly seriously and are committed to making sure our services are accessible to everyone. As such, all colleagues receive disability and diversity training which is refreshed on a regular basis.”