Getting from A-Z: travel and transport advice for those with mobility difficulties
29th February 2016
Transport can sometimes be difficult to navigate; cramped tubes, unreliable buses and traffic delays can not only disrupt your schedule but can result in unenjoyable ordeals. If you have mobility problems, however, this is all the more challenging.
Planning, preparation and knowledge can better your experience as a passenger. Over the past couple of years, transport links have vastly improved in order to make travelling accessible for all. Whilst home mobility aids such as bespoke stairlifts, recliner chairs and grab rails can improve independent living in the home, it is access to private and public transport that makes a huge difference to successful independent living outside the home.
From applying for a Blue Badge to boarding a coach for a longer trip, this guide will include all the necessary information that you’ll need to consider before embarking on your next journey. Find out more below.
Nothing provides you with a sense of independence more than travelling in the car but, with this in mind, mobility difficulties can pose an obvious challenge. Fortunately, there is a variety of different ways in which your car can be adapted, allowing it to still be possible to enjoy car journeys, whether as a passenger or driver.
The Motability scheme helps disabled people use their government-funded mobility allowance to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair. In terms of cars, those who take part in the scheme can go for a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV) or choose adaptations for a car.
Car adaptations include:
- Hand controls
- Electronic accelerators
- Left foot accelerators
- Pedal modifications
- Steering aids
- Remote control devices
- Car boot hoist
- Rooftop stowage
- Transfer plates
- Electric person hoist
- Swivel seats
The Motability scheme provides you with two options: hire purchase and contract hire. For those selecting a hire purchase vehicle, you will pay for the car as part of a contract and, at the end of the agreement, you will have full ownership of the vehicle. Alternatively, contact hire means that although you won’t own the car, you will be entitled to a new model every three years, as well as servicing, maintenance and repairs, breakdown cover, insurance for drivers and passengers, replacement tyres and vehicle excise duty paid for.
You first need to find out if you are eligible. If you are in receipt of a Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance, Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment, War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement or Armed Forces Independence Payment and have 12 months or longer remaining.
You can find out more information on the Motability site, and use their find a dealership tool to see where your nearest Motability dealer is to talk to a specialist and book a test drive.
Blue Badge disabled parking
The disabled parking permit scheme has helped disabled people tackle the difficulty of parking for over 40 years. Now known for the recognisable Blue Badge, it allows disabled drivers to essentially park closer to the place they are trying to visit. This can be by:
- leaving their car in a marked parking bay
- parking for free within certain time limits in some places
- parking on single and double yellow lines
- staying longer in on-street time-limited parking bays
Although some councils provide these badges free of charge, a cost of up to £10 can be incurred. It is worth noting that certain areas do not fully operate Blue Badge regulations, for instance, certain Central London boroughs. You can check postcodes with this tool.
In order to be eligible for a Blue Badge, you:
- are registered as blind
- get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and scored 8 points or more in the ‘moving around’ area of your assessment - check your decision letter if you’re not sure
- get War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
- received a lump sum payment as part of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (tariffs 1 to 8), and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability
You need to apply for your Blue Badge from the local council. You can check your eligibility and start your application via the GOV.UK site.
The Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2000 implemented requirements that from 2016 for single-decker and 2017 for a double-decker, all buses must have accessible access for disabled people. They must have space for a standard wheelchair, a minimum number of priority seats, a boarding device, and handrails to assist disabled users. What’s more is that when boarding a public bus, the driver can help you to board or alight, with some companies even having volunteer schemes to ensure that you can travel safely with assistance.
As all buses are now required to be accessible for its passengers, you should find ramps installed on low-level buses, lighting, easy-to-reach bells and non-slip floors.
If you are a mobility scooter user who is planning a bus journey, it is important that your scooter does not exceed 300kg. This service is yet to operate across all bus companies, so please check with your local company first.
Disabled bus pass
The disabled person’s bus pass can only be applied for in England but can be used in England and Wales. They can be used on Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays, and between 9:30 am and 11 pm on every other day.
You need to contact your local council to find out who issues disabled person’s bus passes in your area, which you can do via the GOV.UK site.
Older person’s bus pass
Once you have reached State Pension age, which is gradually increasing to be 66 for both men and women between December 2018 and October 2020, you can apply for an older person’s bus pass through your local council. This will entitle you to free bus travel. Click here to apply.
Plus, if you live in London you can travel for free on buses and tubes when you reach the age of 60, rather than waiting until the female State Pension age. You need to apply for the Freedom Pass
National Express coach service
If you want to travel by coach on a longer journey, National Express offers two relevant Coachcards that entitle you to discount travel if you’re a senior or are disabled:
The Disabled Coachcard
The Disabled Coachcard saves you a third on standard fares at any time, as well as entitles you to £15 mid-week returns. The card costs £12.50 per year (+£2.50 p&p) and can take 7 days to be received. 96% of National Express’ fleet is now wheelchair accessible and have anchor points located onboard. Many of their coaches also have a lift to ensure that you can safely and efficiently board if you are a wheelchair user. If you’re arranging a trip with National Express and have accessibility needs, you should contact them 36 hours in advance in order for them to assess your travel requirements.
The Senior Coachcard
The Senior Coachcard saves you a third on standard fares at any time, and also has the extra benefit of the £15 day-return on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays offer. It costs £12.50 per year (+£2.50 p&p), and they offer a money-back guarantee to refund the full cost of the card if you don’t save the cost of the card in a year.
If you cannot drive yourself and don’t like public transport, taxis and community transport schemes are your next best option. Taxis will be best for running personal errands, whilst community transport schemes can help you get to appointments at hospitals, doctors surgeries, opticians, dentists and chiropodists. You can find out more about community transport services and Shopmobility that are local to you here.
If you live in London, you can use the London Taxicard scheme, which is managed by the Association of London Government Transport and Environment Committee. With only licensed London taxis used, those with mobility difficulties have access to subsidised door-to-door transport that can be used 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. You can request the application form by phone, email or post.
Again, if you live in a city area you may like to use one of the taxi websites and apps that are growing in popularity. Two that can be used alongside the London Taxicard scheme include Comcab and DataCab.
Uber is an incredibly useful tool no matter where you are as it provides you access to a taxi at the click of a button. Now available at a number of different locations across the country, you are free to ride with an assistance dog. Dogs are required to ride next to their owner, but the driver will ask you where you feel most comfortable riding before your journey begins. Additionally, if you travel with a folding wheelchair, the driver will do his best to assist you on your journey, storing your wheelchair in the boot.
Although having the ability to ride with your service animal and a wheelchair is good, some people require a little more assistance, which is why the taxi company has rolled out two other initiatives: uberASSIST and uberACCESS. Uber has defined both services on their website below:
uberACCESS is a forward-facing wheelchair accessible product. All vehicles are fully wheelchair accessible and can transport one wheelchair user and an additional passenger. Available currently in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds & Newcastle.
uberASSIST is an option for those who require additional assistance – such as older people and people with an access need - including those who may just feel more comfortable with extra assistance when getting from door-to-door.
For more information, before you ride, take a look at the uber website for more information.
On mainline trains, there is space for wheelchairs, and the train company’s Disabled People’s Protection Policy ensures that disabled people’s rights are protected. Many people with disabilities and mobility issues can use the UK’s rail services independently now, however, it is recommended to get in touch before travelling to book assistance if you will need extra help to get around stations or to get on and off the trains.
As for train stations themselves, Network Rail is investing a great deal in their Access for All scheme, whereby they are improving accessibility by introducing ramps and lifts. They are keeping track of which stations are due repairs and upgrades, are currently being worked on, and are finished using their A-Z of station improvements. If a station you need to know about isn’t there, you can search for the station’s list of facilities using National Rail Enquiries’ search tool.
Disabled Persons Railcard
National Rail offers 1/3 off rail fares to those who own a Disabled Persons Railcard, and also one other adult travelling with them. It costs £20 to purchase one for a year, and £54 to purchase one for three years. There are also exclusive offers and competitions for cardholders.
There are a number of eligibility criteria that need to be met, details of which are on their website. Apply online or download the application form and send by post.
Likewise, 1/3 off rail fares is also offered to those who own a Senior Railcard – you need to be 60 or over to apply for one. The Senior Railcard costs £30 for one year, or £70 for three years. You can apply online or over the phone, and also at station ticket offices if you bring along some form of identification – birth certificate, passport or UK driving licence.
Transport for London has worked hard to make the city’s Underground service accessible to all – being underground, however, means that it is difficult to upgrade stations that were simply not designed with mobility in mind when they were first built. So, there are limited step-free stations.
Those that are step-free are clearly marked in each tube car, and you can take a look at their Step-free Tube Map to plan your journey before you go. All Underground staff have had disability equality training and can assist anyone who needs a hand.
According to Transport for All, only 67 of 270 Tube stations have step-free access in some form. Whilst TfL has made great changes, Transport for All is campaigning for improvements. They are a great resource for older people and those with disabilities who are looking for travel support and information – you can become a member to find out more.
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.