Public transport with a disability
Disability doesn't have to mean being stuck at home. Here's our guide to accessible public transport.
Getting a wheelchair
If your walking difficulties are permanent or near permanent you can get an NHS wheelchair on a free loan – ask your local doctor (GP) for details. The NHS can loan more than one wheelchair if necessary (for example, one for using at home and the other for use at work). It might also be possible to get vouchers from the NHS or, if you get certain benefits, a loan, to help pay for a more expensive wheelchair.
Although rail operators are legally obliged to make provision for disabled passengers, it’s still a good idea to give them at least 24-hours’ notice if you need assistance. If it’s a long journey, start by contacting the train company or, if you have to change services, the main terminal station. The Passenger Transport Executives is a good source of local information and advice.
If you have a disability that makes rail travel difficult you might be entitled to a Disabled Persons Railcard, which will give you an a fellow-traveller one-third off most fares (although you’ll get the same discounts if you get a 16-25 Railcard).
In England, disabled people are entitled to free bus travel at off-peak times. In Wales and Scotland, disabled people and essential companions are entitled to a free bus pass.
The accessibility of bus services vary, so if you need assistance it’s best to contact your local Passenger Transport Authority for information. In some areas there are Dial-a-bus schemes providing door-to-door services for disabled people.
Many coaches have high steps that make them inaccessible for some people. However, more accessible vehicles are coming into service and the entire National Express network is now accessible.
Most companies will not take electric wheelchairs or scooters, but they should be willing to take a folding wheelchair if given sufficient notice (at least seven days). Some also offer concessionary fares.
For more information on National Express services, follow this link.
Access for disabled people varies across the Underground, with newer lines and stations tending to have better services. Various sources of help and information are available and you can call the 24-hour travel information centre on 020 7222 1234, or Minicom 020 7918 3015 for help planning your journey.
Taxis and minicabs
Drivers of licensed taxis and minicabs are required to carry a guide dog and hearing dog, or an assistance dog accompanying a person with epilepsy or a physical disability, free of charge. Otherwise there are no legal requirements on accessibility, so speak to your local taxi firms to find one that can meet your needs.
In London, all newly-licensed taxis must be able to carry a wheelchair and all taxis must be wheelchair accessible.
Airlines and travel companies are not allowed by law to refuse bookings from disabled passengers (even if the disability is temporary, such as from an injury). This applies to all flights leaving an airport in the European Union (EU) and to any flight arriving in an EU country on an EU airline.
Airlines have various services for disabled passengers, but if you have a disability and want to fly, it’s advisable to contact the travel operator or airline at least 48-hours in advance.
Been refused travel?
If you’ve been treated badly or refused travel due to your disability don’t be afraid to make a complaint. No one has the right to discriminate against you because of your disability. Contact The Cititzens Advice (CAB) bureau for more information.
By Tom Green
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
Picture of a disabled parking space by Shutterstock
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