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Dublin: 10°C Monday 20 September 2021

Column: 'We waited for three hours on the side of the road in the dark and cold. I'm sick of it'

This is an issue that wheelchair users face on a daily basis, writes Linda Byrne.

Linda Byrne Wheelchair user

A FEW WEEKS ago my sister Karen Byrne was appearing in the final of RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars with her celebrity partner Jake Carter.

We had organised a get together for all her supporters to watch the show and cheer them on, which I attended on the night. There was a huge crowd present and the support was amazing.

To top it off, my sister Karen and Jake went on and won it. The cheers were deafening, it was surreal. I was so emotional and proud, and continued the celebrations with some good friends.

The perfect night out?

Sounds like the perfect night out? Yes, it was. Until the time came to go home. Wheelchair users like me can’t just hop in a taxi home like everyone else.

We’re used to being in situations like this. I started phoning taxis well in advance of but to no avail. “No wheelchair accessible taxis available tonight, sorry” was the response we received from every company we phoned.

In the meantime a friend of mine went outside the venue and tried to flag a taxi down. She stopped every single taxi that passed, asking if they knew of a wheelchair accessible taxi. Still no luck.

The staff in the pub were very helpful and also tried phoning cab companies but unfortunately none were available and the pub had to close. We moved outside.

Three hours in the cold

I waited three hours on the side of the road in the cold. I phoned a total of 37 companies before finally getting a taxi. It could only take one of us so I let my friend take it as she lives further away than me and I could manage my way home in my wheelchair.

Cerebral palsy affects my upper and lower limbs. It is caused by lack of oxygen to the brain during birth. I am not able to walk but I can hold myself up when holding onto something, but only for a short period of time. It means I am wheelchair bound and need full-time care.

I do still try my best to stay positive and live my life to the fullest. I am an independent woman and like to do the same things as everyone else. Should I be restricted from doing them because I use a wheelchair? Should I not go out at night for fear of not being able to get home?

I’m sick of it

I’ve had this problem so many times with all types of public transport. I’m sick of it. I cannot understand why in this day and age there are not more wheelchair accessible taxis and buildings.

I am not for one second bitter about my situation and try to live life to the fullest where possible. Yes I have to plan ahead before I do things and one personality trait I have gained from being a wheelchair user is patience, which I need to have a lot of so it seems.

But being left on the side of the road for three hours with no means of transportation home is just a down right disgrace.

This is an issue that wheelchair users face on a daily basis. It’s not good enough Ireland.

Linda Byrne has cerebral palsy. She is married to Mark and has been in a wheelchair since birth.

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About the author:

Linda Byrne  / Wheelchair user

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