A Paralympian athlete is calling for companies who do not provide basic facilities for the disabled to face “huge fines.”
It comes after British wheelchair racer Anne Wafula Strike said she was forced to wet herself on a CrossCountry train after the company failed to provide an accessible toilet for her three-hour journey.
Wafula Strike, who does not have the use of her legs, told the Guardian that the incident in December, left her humiliated and “completely robbed of her dignity.”
She added: “As a disabled person I have worked so hard over the years to build up my confidence and self-belief.
“Having access to a toilet, especially in a developed nation like the UK, is one of the most basic rights.”
Revealing she sprayed herself with perfume to mask the smell of urine, Wafula Strike said: “If the able-bodied toilet had been closer I could have tried to crawl to it but it was too far away and my wheelchair would not fit in the aisles to get to it.”
The Kenyan-born 46-year-old, who has an MBE for services to disability sport, told the BBC she had boarded the train from Nuneaton to Stansted Airport via a wheelchair assistance ramp, but was not warned in advance that the disabled toilet was out of order.
She told the broadcaster: “I waited for the ticket master to come and she was very sympathetic and said she would get me off at the next stop so I could use the toilet there and they would put me back on. But at that particular station there was nobody on the platform to help me.”
According to CrossCountry, the train was only in use because cow strikes had left two other trains out of action. While it did have a disabled toilet on board, as per legislation under the Equality Act 2010, it was not in use for that journey.
Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire show on Tuesday, Harlow resident Wafula Strike said: “It’s not on. We are talking about a basic right. Honestly, I’ve not had any apology or any communication from the CrossCountry group and to me it’s not just enough if I ask them to give me my dignity back but what I think I would ask them is ‘What are you going to do about this?’
“I would really like to call on change. We need to see change happen. I think companies and organisations should be fined if they don’t adhere to the legislations. They need to pay huge fines when these things happen.”
According to various media outlets, CrossCounty has offered her apologies and first class train tickets for future use. Huffington Post UK has put Wafula Strike’s remarks that she has not received an apology to the company.
A spokesman for Disability Rights UK said: “The courts are starting to take cases like this very seriously. Not only the lack of access but also the injury to feeling that occurs.
“If Anne decides to take legal action we would be right behind her. No one should have to go through an experience like that. Access and inclusion need to be taken seriously. These things should not just be tick box exercises.”