Blog by Nicola Jura, Futures & Office Administrator
On the 13th of January we were invited to take a trip to Heathrow airport. A week before the trip I had a dry run at Epsom train station to see how my chair would fit on the train.
I went with the Futures Group and we were joined by Graham and Amanda from QEF. Our journey was from Epsom to Paddington station, then from Paddington on the Heathrow Express.
When we arrived at Heathrow, we met Sarah and Rachel from the Heathrow team, and Helen and Lady-Marie who are both are disability travel activist extraordinaires! Sarah explained about the flower lanyards which you can wear if you need assistance, this is optional. She also talked about the hoist which can be used on the plane to get you to your seat.
Helen told me about her service dog and Lady-Marie gave me some tips on how to get my power chair on and off the train and how to park on the bus.
While we were having lunch, we got the chance to ask some of the questions that we had about our journey.
Afterwards we had a Skype call with Jennene Greenall who works for Brisbane airport. We asked lots of questions. She gave us a list of things we can do in Brisbane if we decide to visit. After we asked our final questions, we went to terminal 3 to catch the train for our return to Epsom.
I felt that the trip went well. There are things that need to be improved when it comes to access, and I hope I can go back and try the equipment on offer. I’d like to have more experiences like this in the future.
Bus travel is a lifeline for many people in our community. Buses are
frequent, cover local routes and are often cheaper than using trains and taxis.
Our Futures group have recently taken two bus journeys; one from Epsom to
Kingston and one from Victoria Station to Paddington Station in London. While
bus travel is convenient and offers a great deal of freedom and independence,
we found some obstacles along the way.
What worked well?
All 8,000 London buses and the vast majority of
buses operating in Surrey are classed as accessible, meaning that they can be
comfortably accessed by wheelchair users (with some exceptions for extra-large
Assistance dogs are welcome on all buses too
There is (usually) no need to make arrangements
What made it difficult?
Last year, changes to concessionary bus passes came into force
restricting use between 9.30am and 11pm, impacting people’s ability to travel
to work etc.
Other passengers aren’t always aware that wheelchair users take
priority over pushchairs
Signage does not take hidden disabilities into consideration
The design of the wheelchair space means it can be difficult to
manoeuvre the chair into position. On our bus trip from Victoria to London, the
driver started to drive before we could secure our wheelchair safely
Buses tend to only accommodate one wheelchair, meaning that you
will have to wait for another bus
If applicable, apply for a companion bus pass which will allow a companion to travel with you for free
Sutton Community Transport offer free travel training to increase confidence and encourage independent travel, especially among vulnerable groups (find out more here)
If you need to sit down, there are priority seats available
If using a wheelchair, allow extra time for your journey as each bus only has one designated wheelchair area. You might need to wait for a bus with a free space
For our site to work properly, we need to store small files (called cookies) on your computer. As required by EU regulations, we want to check if you are happy for us to do this first. What do you say? Sounds good