Being newly qualified is a very exciting thing for anyone moving from the university to the working world. It is nerve racking, the blood is pumping and having to find a new place to live in the capital can be difficult at the best of times.
Being a newly qualified journalist, I have been looking for work, being a journalist has great flexibility, you get to work from home, you can work in a different part of the country, but if you work in London, you have to decide between eating or living, because of the costs incurred in being disabled and wanting to live in the city.
A few months ago, I stayed in a hotel in London to see if I could live in London while being in a mobility scooter. The answer was yes, if I earned a starting wage of £35,000 a year. However, the average graduate wage is £25,000 a year, this was not going to happen.
There was a cracking job going in the centre of London for a disabled journalist, writing stories, raising awareness on the struggles people with disabilities have from one day to the next. Having done an internship in a press office, having a journalism degree and being disabled I met all the criteria, the only issue was that it was based in central London.
There are government schemes like Access to Work, but this only covers the cost of getting to and from work, what happens if you want a social life.
In my experiment I stayed in Fulham just on the outskirts of central London and a very easy commute for anyone fully mobile and so I gave it a go, the results were unexpected.
The first day of getting the bus, I could not get the bus, the busses were so over crowded people would not let me on the bus, the driver explained, I would have to wait for the next bus as there was not enough room. After the 13th bus, I gave up, so this transport option failed.
I then tried what is supposed to be the best transport system in the world the London Underground. There was simply no disabled access and so this form of transport was out. On the few stations I could access my scooter could not get up the gap between the train and the platform and so access to the train was impossible.
The only option I had was taxis, while this was great for getting around London, in this three-day experiment of going out and having a social life after work, I spent £120 on taxies to get from central London to Fulham. If I did this every week, over the year it would cost me close to £6000 to have a social life in London, before I have had one drink. Where as an annual travel card for zones 1-4 is less than £2,000 making it three times more expensive for a disabled person to get around London than a none disabled person.
Following this research, I spoke to a number of disabled journalists who work in the city and have tried to raise awareness of the situation. They explained they were either just ignored, left frustrated, or that the issue is quickly forgotten about as the government do not seem to be worried about a disabled persons social life after they assist you to get in and out of work by Access to Work. In one case one journalist said they were socially isolated and cost of living in London was outstripping their wages and were going to food banks while being employed by a large media organisation, but they said they loved their job.
This research also found out that it was actually cheaper to live in a Travelodge than it would be renting a ground floor apartment or having access to a wheelchair friendly living environment. The average rent in London is between £1,300 and £1,700 a month where you can stay a month in a Travelodge for £1,264 with no bills and no council tax to pay and you know they will be fully accessible and being Travelodge if you say your going to be there a while, I am sure you can negotiate the price.
This story simply confirms that if you want a career in central London and are disabled you are going to find it very difficult. It is clear from the people I have spoken to and conducting my own research that disabled graduates and people who work in London are being priced out of the capital because the lack of transport facilities. The government, local councils and disability organisations need to come together to address the issues otherwise no disabled people will be accessing or living in central London in the years to come.