Disability Campaigner Paula Peters ‘Abused On Train’
Paula Peters is a friend of Same Difference. We know she is disabled and would like to put on record that she has our full support. We have no further words to describe our feelings about this.
A disabled woman has told how she was called a “scrounger” and told to “f*** off” as she was subjected to a foul-mouthed tirade on a train when she asked a young couple to give up their seats.
Paula Peters, 45, from Bromley, said she was hit with the abuse after she approached a man and a woman in seats marked for wheelchair users.
She said the pair mocked her when she told them she needed to sit down as she suffered from “chronic pain” before a woman told her “f*** off, you’re a scrounger”.
Ms Peters added her disability was also questioned even though she uses a walker to aid her balance and that no passengers intervened in the row on her behalf.
The alleged incident took place on a Southeastern service from Charing Cross to Hastings on Monday after she boarded at London Bridge at around 3.30pm.
Ms Peters, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, told the Standard: “I was on my way home from a hospital appointment and asked the couple if I could sit down because I was in chronic pain.
“But they just laughed at me. The woman said to me “how do we know you’re disabled” before adding “f*** off, you’re a scrounger”.
“There were other people who didn’t move from their seats and no-one intervened. I was forced to stand all the way to my stop.”
Ms Peters took a picture of the couple accused of abusing her and posted it on Facebook but later took it down after more hurtful comments were aimed at her.
She said the incident has left her “vulnerable” and spoke out to highlight the increasing difficulties disabled people face on public transport.
She added: “I’m getting too frightened to ask people if I can have a seat because I’m getting abuse.
“People are plugged into their headphones or looking down at their tablets and they don’t want to interact. It is an increasing problem and a societal one
“I felt very vulnerable and I hate that word but that is what is happening.”
She said she has written to Southeastern about the incident and also plans to speak with her local MP.
The rail operator issues “priority seating cards” to passengers in need of seats but Ms Peters admitted she doesn’t own one and added a complete shift in attitudes towards the disabled is needed.
She said: “Why do I have to wear a badge or have a card to prove my disability. I feel like we have gone back in time.”
Disabled groups condemned the “unacceptable” behaviour and warned people were suffering from intolerant attitudes every day.
Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope said: “Incidents like this are shocking but something that will be all too familiar to many disabled people.
“Disabled people face attitudes like this every day on public transport, at work and on the streets. That means it can be incredibly tough to ask fellow passengers to give up a seat when needed.
“We know that, for the most part, these negative perceptions of disability are caused by ignorance and that not enough people know or interact with disabled people.
“However, at their most extreme, disabled people are specifically targeted because they are seen as different, leading to verbal abuse, violence and harassment.
“This is unacceptable and has no place in modern Britain.”
A Southeastern spokeswoman said: “Southeastern has priority seating for passengers who for a range of reasons, whether they may be elderly, pregnant or perhaps have a disability, cannot stand and are in need of a seat.
“We do kindly ask that people look out for fellow passengers and give up their seats if they can, to those in greater need.
“We know that it may not be always be obvious that someone is in need of a seat, or that some people feel uncomfortable to ask, so we do provide Priority Seating cards which can be shown to other passengers on board.”