‘Island is unwelcoming to people with disabilities’
Guernsey is unwelcoming to people with disabilities or mobility restrictions, a retired entrepreneur has concluded.
Steven Wall, 71, pictured, said the island ‘may as well have a great big banner saying “anyone over the age of X – don’t come here”,’ due to the impracticalities of getting on and off the island.
After the Guernsey Press detailed Robert Douglas’ difficulties in travelling to and from Guernsey by air, Mr Wall – who also uses a wheelchair – said the situation was getting worse.
‘Something’s got to be done about it,’ he said.
‘Whenever I get off the plane in Guernsey, they have to get the fire department to come and lift me off.’
Mr Wall said the fire service personnel were ‘great blokes’ and were very competent, but he questioned whether this was the best way to receive people into the island.
He has also experienced problems while boarding flights at UK airports in order to return to Guernsey.
Following a recent three-month trip to the United States, where he underwent surgery at UCLA, Mr Wall planned to come back to Guernsey via Gatwick – an overall journey of 20 hours.
At Gatwick, he was put in an aisle seat which was lifted into the tail of an Aurigny ATR by a vehicle with its own elevator – a vehicle referred to by staff at the time as an ‘Ambilift’, he said.
‘It goes up vertically and lifts you right up to the aircraft but on this occasion, once I was in the galley, they couldn’t turn me round. I don’t know what the problem was. Maybe the chair they were using was different.’
It was not therefore possible to accommodate Mr Wall on the flight and so he was taken back down and had to wait for the next flight undertaken by the Embraer jet.
Fortunately, this was on the next rotation and his original 6pm departure saw him reach Guernsey at 10.30pm.
As part of its plan to return to profit, Aurigny plans to rationalise its fleet – a process that may involve selling its lone Embraer jet.
The company has refused several requests to give an update on this planned sale.
Peter Leigh, who drives one of Guernsey’s few wheelchair-adapted taxis, is concerned about what will happen if that aircraft goes.
He said he had heard several accounts from passengers who had experienced difficulties getting on and off the ATRs, including one account of a passenger who was hurt after allegedly being inadequately secured.
An Aurigny spokeswoman said the airline was ‘aware that sometimes the standards we strive to uphold are not met and we apologise for any inconvenience or discomfort experienced by passengers when boarding or exiting our aircraft’.
She also said staff training initiatives would ‘soon be in place to further improve the knowledge and skills of our staff when assisting passengers with mobility issues and hidden disabilities’.
Customers in need of special assistance on an Aurigny flight are asked to contact the airline’s reservations team – a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel – on 01481 267267
Robert Douglas, who featured in a Guernsey Press story regarding wheelchair users and Aurigny in early October has agreed compensation with the airline in recognition of his poor treatment.
Mr Douglas, 84, was forgotten by airport staff on both his flights to and from Guernsey, and actually watched his flight to Guernsey take off without him.
‘They have assured me that they will endeavour to see this does not happen again and told me they will be improving the staff training in recognition of difficulties already experienced by wheelchair users,’ he said.
‘This is important as we will hopefully see a change for the good.’