#BreakingBarriers to public transport

Many of us rely on public transport in our daily lives; to get to work, to visit family and friends, pick up groceries and visit the doctor. 

For anyone with a disability, travelling on public transport can present a number of barriers; sometimes these barriers mean it isn’t possible to use public transport at all. 

Being unable to use such important public services can really limit the quality of life for someone with a learning disability, particularly for those who live alone with limited support. 

During the pandemic, increased safety measures and operational changes to buses, trains and taxis have added additional barriers for an already isolated group to overcome.   

So how do we make public transport work for people with a learning disability? 

While key issues such as step-free access to buses, trains and stations and a lack of accessible toilets remain some of the biggest barriers that people with disabilities face when using public transport, a whole host of new barriers have become apparent since the pandemic began.  

For anyone unable who is unable to wear a face covering, the prospect of using public transport can be filled with anxiety. Many people who are unable to wear a face covering have a hidden disability and there is often fear of being challenged by fellow passengers. 

To avoid being challenged, it is advised that those unable to wear a face covering have a mask exemption card. There are many different exemption cards that can be downloaded or purchased online.

Below are links to the TFL (Transport for London) and Government exemption cards.

Print or download TFL exemption card

Print or download Government exemption card 

For those who find it difficult to maintain social distancing, the Government have created cards and badges that politely ask fellow passengers to be mindful and give you space.  

Find out more about ‘give me space’ cards and badges

Arriva Buses operate around the Epsom area and have created a poster explaining the new rules and how they will be keeping passengers safe. Before travelling on the bus, take a look so that you feel prepared and comfortable. 

View Arriva Buses poster

All bus operators in Epsom recognise the mask exemption cards so please remember to take yours with you. 

If you wish to communicate your support needs discreetly when travelling, the helping hand card is a useful way to let others know how they can support you.

All train operators and National Rail are signed up to the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. If you have a hidden disability, please wear your sunflower lanyard. This will let staff know that you may like some additional support on your journey. 

Mask exemption and social distancing cards are also recognised on trains. Carrying these in your wallet or purse will mean that you won’t forget them!

Taxis and private hire cars require passengers to wear a face covering. It is recommended speaking to the taxi company in advance if you are unable to wear a face covering. Carry your exemption card with you too.

Some private taxis might prefer to receive payment online before a journey or via contactless card payment. Each company will have their own preferences, so please do call in advance so that there are no surprises.

If possible, always sit in the back, furthest away from the driver to keep to social distance guidelines. If you would prefer to sit in the front of the car, speak to the company or the driver in advance.

Visiting London can offer lots of great experiences, but it can be a difficult place to visit for some. Having a disability usually means planning journeys in advance to ensure any additional support needed is available – and with so many stations and routes, this can be particularly difficult in London.  

TFL have created a free app that features the fastest routes, quietest times to travel and stations with step free access. The app can be downloaded from Apple store. 

Find out more about the TFL GO app

Useful links 

At Sunnybank we are always looking for ways to improve the transport experience for our members, particularly in the short-term. There are so many fantastic charitable organisations who work tirelessly to break down those long-standing barriers that have prevented disabled people from using public transport for far too long. 

Here are some great examples: 

  • Transport for All – invaluable advice for disabled travellers across London
  • Changing Places – create accessible toilet facilities up and down the country making it possible for disabled people to travel with dignity

Are you a transport operator? 

We’d love to hear from you!

Support people with learning disabilities to use your services in a safe and inclusive way. Please share the steps you are taking to make your operations accessible for all.