Although there have been some promising developments recently in accessible transport, getting around by public transport with a wheelchair can still be a bit of a nightmare. We’re going to take a look at some of the options available to you both publicly and privately.
While it is still compulsory for all minicabs and taxis to be wheelchair accessible inside London and in many other cities, there is a danger that cabs will be less numerous in future due to the rise of Uber. Uber cabs are for the most part non-wheelchair-accessible and are frequently cheaper than black cabs or pre-booked minicabs, meaning that you could be missing out on the discounted travel others are able to access.
If you are outside London, you can contact your council to find out if it is compulsory for taxis in your area to be wheelchair accessible.
As of October 2015, Uber has rolled out UberASSIST in London, designed to provide additional assistance for disabled riders or those with access needs. While the service is the same price as a normal Uber, the drivers will have completed a disability equality course and have a car that can accommodate folding wheelchairs, walkers and scooters. Unfortunately, as of yet this fleet doesn’t include wheelchair accessible vehicles so aren’t suitable for non-folding or motorised wheelchairs. There are more details on their website.
As well as having compulsory ramps and wheelchair spaces, over a third of full-size local buses nationwide are now low floor vehicles, rising to as high as 90% in London. These are probably one of the easier ways to travel around London, although bus stops aren’t always in convenient places. The charity Ricability has produced a free guide, Wheels within Wheels, on using public transport with a wheelchair.
Sadly, in the past year not that much has improved on the London Underground. Despite being one of the most important methods of transport in and around London, step-free access is still only available in less than a quarter of stations, leaving some lines (for example the central line) completely inaccessible. You can look at these guides for further information.
Overground, travel by train becomes a little easier. Although stations may not be that easy to enter and leave, there are many more nationally that are wheelchair accessible. If you are travelling by train you should notify the company you are travelling with as soon as possible (many online booking websites have a section to cover this) if you will need their assistance boarding and leaving the train. Once aboard, there are dedicated wheelchair spaces and staff should be on hand to assist if needed.
Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles
Despite recent advancements, owning a wheelchair accessible vehicle still provides the greatest level of flexibility. In inner-city areas, your blue badge will provide far greater flexibility of parking and allow you to access places you couldn’t easily reach by public transport. Despite black cabs now all being wheelchair accessible, they are not always available — and definitely not affordable! Two trips in a black cab could easily cost the amount of your weekly mobility allowance. Although there have been improvements in public transport, there’s still a long way to go before the UK’s public transport becomes truly accessible.
Explore your WAV options with Mobility Nationwide. Browse our current range of vehicles or give us a call on 01824 526061.