Travelling with a Disability

If you’re disabled like me, (and no I’m not ashamed of the fact I’m disabled, post on that to follow) certain things require planning and a bit of extra help. 

Travelling is one of those things.   

Luckily there is plenty of help out there when travelling so I thought I’d put together a post of the different options out there.

Booking assistance

If you’re due to be flying or going on a train soon, you can book assistance with the provider in advance. This assistance can be as simple as helping you get on and off the train / plane, to transporting you from check in to the aeroplane door. 

Travelling by aeroplane with a disability 

  • Special assistance desks are available at all terminals of all airports. Here they can answer your questions, explain procedures and confirm your booked assistance. 
  • When booking your assistance, you need to contact the airline you are flying with, not the airport. The reason for this is so that the support is there for you at your destination, not just the departure airport. 
  • You will need to decide what kind of support you will need before requesting it. We recently flew with British Airways and they were fantastic. They offered me 3 levels of support and this was available both at the airport and at the arrival destination.  
British Airways accessibility support
The 3 levels of accessibility support available with British Airways
  • To read more about British Airways’ support, go to: 

Travelling by aeroplane with a disability

Travelling by train with a disability 

  • You can book assistance through all rail companies in the UK. They are able to provide the following support:

 

meet you at the station entrance or meeting point

help you navigate around the station and accompany you to your train

help you on and off the service

provide a ramp on and off your train

meet you from your train and take you to your next train or the exit

carry your bag (up to three items of luggage)

To book assistance, visit the Disabled Persons Railcard site here

OR 

Contact your train provider, not the station, to book the assistance you need directly. 

To find the correct contact details for your train provider, click here to be directed to the National Rail list of train providers. 

  • Make sure you book your assistance at least 24 hours in advance to ensure the stations get the information in plenty of time. 

NB: Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what time train you’ll be returning on. You can turn up at your returning station and they can call ahead to your home station to let them know you’re on your way. 

Travelling by train with a disability

Travelling by bus with a disability 

  • Bus passes are available from your local council.
  • A bus pass gives you free travel within your county at all times of day. If travelling outside of your county, you get free bus travel between 9.30am and 11pm. 
  • To receive a bus pass, you will need to have proof of your disability, which comes through your benefits decision (Personal Independence Payment).   
  • If you live in England, visit the following site to find your local council bus pass application form: 

https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-disabled-bus-pass

By law, any bus that is designed to hold more than 22 people on local and scheduled routes must comply with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations (PSVAR) which states that drivers of these vehicles must provide assistance to disabled passengers to board and alight the bus. 

For the exact rights that you have as a disabled passenger on all forms of transport, visit the following government website: 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rights-of-disabled-passengers-on-transport

Travelling by bus with a disability

Sunflower lanyards

Sunflower lanyards (a bright green lanyard with yellow sunflowers) have been introduced across the UK as a way of raising awareness of invisible disabilities.  

Sunflower lanyard
A sunflower lanyard

Those with invisible disabilities including autism, dementia, anxiety, visual or hearing impairments, plus many others, can benefit from a sunflower lanyard. 

Wearing a sunflower lanyard gives staff a message that you may need some support at some point in your journey.

Me wearing the sunflower lanyard
It was 6 am. A flattering photo just wasn’t going to happen.

Staff at the following companies have been trained in what the sunflower lanyard stands for and what someone might need help with if they’re wearing one. The sunflower lanyard allows someone with a hidden disability to be recognised as needing support without having to explain their condition. 

This sunflower lanyard is fast becoming the symbol in the UK for invisible disabilities. 

As of August 2019, the following companies have sunflower lanyards in operation:

  • Sainsburys
  • Tesco 
  • London North Eastern Railway (LNER) 
  • Most UK airports: London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, East Midlands. 

To get hold of a sunflower lanyard for your upcoming journey, contact one of the providers from the list above. Make sure you give yourself at least a week before travelling to ensure you receive one in time. 

Hopefully more UK travel providers will catch onto this in order to increase this list. I’d personally like to see TfL (Transport for London) welcoming this as the London transport system can be incredibly overwhelming with ME CFS and I’m sure others probably feel the same way. 

(Note: TfL do have plenty in place for accessibility on their transport network. Click here for their accessibility website. )

Last but not least…

Time 

Give yourself LOADS of time. And I mean LOADS. Work out how long you need to get somewhere and add on extra.

One thing I learnt on my recent journeys is that everything takes sooooo much longer than it did pre-disability.  

Have any tips of your own to add to this list? Did you travel via a certain airport that offered particularly good support? Share it here! 

Soph x 

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