Update From Kate: First ForayBy Kate Bosley -
It is the first time I am going to travel across London with my new guide dog, Phoenix. I am Traveling from Maidstone to Stevenage on Sunday evening. I have done this trip before, last year. The difference is this year my white cane is staying at home and I am taking with me, for support, my new amazing guide dog. It sounded easy when I planned the trip, but now I am not so sure!
Guide dogs need special training using escalators. Phoenix hasn't been trained and neither have I. My previous experiences have been fantastically good. Network Rail has been amazing. When you book a trip on the train you book assistance. Each time I have done it I have been met at the station on arrival. The staff know who you are and where you are going. They escort you to the next platform if you are changing trains. If you need to cross London by tube they escort you to the tube staff who ensure you catch the correct tube. If you need to change tubes they radio through and staff meet the tube and assist you getting the next tube.
You are asked to book this service but life doesn't make this easy to do as things change. What if you decide to travel that day? In reality I have found this okay. The system works even if you haven't booked beforehand. I think it is an amazing service that Network Rail should be so proud of. It makes a difference to me. I know there are people who don't like being helped. You feel different and that can be a challenge. I feel that's okay; having a disability isn't my fault. I am proud of 'getting on with it.’ If I need support ‘doing,’ that is okay. I am not sitting at home doing nothing!
So the big day is Sunday. Staff will assist me but if the tube only has escalator access they can't help. So I rang for assistance. Has Victoria station got lifts/stairs to the tube? The information I gained tells me which station is step free but I can do steps not escalators. It's not easy to work out and certainly not in a rush. I need to work out if I can travel by tube/train from Victoria to Kings Cross and then Kings Cross to Stevenage with no escalators in the way. Actually having spent time working this out I have realized that the times I am traveling means I now need to change at Finsbury. Having never been to Finsbury, what is there? Escalators? More searching! It's actually not easy.