Transport – Introducing Your Options
Buses are normally expected to be wheelchair accessible nowadays, although rail replacement buses are not. Local buses can be quite narrow, and the wheelchair space can be quite small, but it should exist. Sometimes there can be disagreements about whether a wheelchair user or pushchair have priority in the wheelchair space. Legally the wheelchair user has priority, and if there is a pushchair in the wheelchair space, the bus driver is obligated to ask them to fold it or move, but not obligated to force them to do so.
Coach routes can often be made accessible, but you have to book these well in advance, in order to ensure that they put an accessible coach on your route.
Most trains require a ramp for wheelchair users to access them. Typically they ask that you book your need for the ramp 24-48 hours ahead to ensure that they are able to provide this, although in some areas you are able to ‘turn up and go’. These trains generally have a wheelchair space although you may have to pre-book this in advance also.
Some trains are now ‘roll on roll off’, but these are few and far between, and it is also worth making sure that the train guard or stations you are travelling to and from know that you are there in case problems arise.
Be aware that not all railway stations are accessible – do your research ahead of travelling.
While not all taxis are accessible, black cabs are meant to have a wheelchair ramp, and be accessible. Sometimes it can be difficult to access the smaller ones if you have a high wheelchair, high headrest, or a long wheelbase with foot plates that stick out a long way in front, but many of the newer taxis are better designed for this.
A black cab is not legally allowed to refuse you for being a wheelchair user. These can also often be hailed using apps such as GETT.
Other apps like Uber offer the option of booking an accessible vehicle, but you can wait a long time for this.
If you know in advance that you will need a taxi, in many areas there will be at least one firm that offers accessible taxis (usually Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles) that can be booked ahead of time..
Cars & WAVs
If you are a wheelchair user, you will often require a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV), unless you are able to get out of a wheelchair that is small enough to fold into the car.
The main funding route for a WAV is via Motability, but you can often also buy second-hand and ex-Motability WAVs outright. With Motability, you will typically have to pay a downpayment, and then contribute the mobility component of your PIP, but Motability manage the insurance and maintenance costs of your vehicle. If you are on low income or specific benefits, you may well be able to get a grant towards the downpayment.
Most WAVs are not cars that were built that way, but are existing models which are modified by a company. They typically have a ramp that goes in the back, although some of them have a ramp at the side. Vehicles built as adapted vehicles are often larger and may have a ramp or even a lift to get you in.
There are various options for where you sit, most WAVs are designed for you to ride in your wheelchair in the back of the car. However, there are some that are designed for you to be the frontside passenger, or even drive the car.
If you are hoping to drive your own car, it can be a long process of installing custom adaptations before you have a car that meets your needs. These cars are often adapted to be driven from joysticks, with mirrors placed such that you don’t need to be able to move your head, and complete hand controls. Motability is able to assist you with all of the assessments and design that are necessary before you can begin to drive your own adapted vehicle.