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Travelling when disabled: the worry and difficulties faced for each journey

  • 03.08.2022
  • EmmaArnold
  • Personal-injury
  • accessibility disabled public transport transport accessible transport for all

A disabled writer has highlighted the issues she, and the other women featured in her article, face every time they make a journey on public transport.

Lucy Webster investigates how travel by trains or planes can be fraught with difficulty, from being forgotten about at stations to being unable to use the toilet on long flights.

Shining a light on the questions that cross her mind before boarding a plane, she worries how so many things can go wrong and explains how she finds air travel particularly stressful.

Will they allow our wheelchair through security, or will we be forced on to airport chairs that we can’t use independently? Will the wheelchair be left behind at the gate, leaving us stranded? Will it be broken en route, ruining a work trip or a holiday? Will assistance come before boarding closes? Will we be hurt as we are manhandled on to the plane?

None of these worries, however, come close to the big one: are we going to be left behind? Once all the passengers are off, this question rumbles around our heads as we crane to see whether assistance is coming. If it doesn’t come, we are stranded.

Although there have been campaigns for years to allow wheelchair users to store their chairs in the cabin, most airlines store passengers’ chairs in the hold, meaning they are without their chair when the plane lands and have to wait to be reunited.

Sophie Morgan, presenter and wheelchair-user explained how she often avoids food and drink before a flight in order to limit the chances of her needing to use the toilet. She said how she always expects the worst and then plans what to do if the worst were to happen; she wets herself, she is stranded, or her chair is damaged.

With destinations becoming more and more accessible, the amenities and service in order to actually arrive at those destinations needs to follow suit and be prepared enough for disabled travellers.

Transport for All, a group working to make public transport more accessible, and say it is not just people with mobility impairments who are left stranded. Blind and visually impaired passengers may also need help to navigate busy airports and stations, as may some neurodivergent people.

Sami Palmer Latif, personal injury solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan and Secretary of the Merseyside Branch of the Spinal Injuries Association, said:

The experiences recounted in this article are alarmingly common amongst disabled people. I regularly speak with wheelchair users who have had demeaning experiences with different modes of transport whether it be buses, taxis, boats, trains or aeroplanes. The government published an Inclusive Travel Transport Strategy back in 2018 in which a commitment was made to make the transport fully accessible by 2030 but there are fundamental failings which are still ongoing and compromising the dignity, independence and quality of life of those affected on a daily basis.

The full article in the Guardian can be read here with more stories and experiences from wheelchair-users travelling.

Sami Palmer-Latif is a Solicitor in personal injury here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about spinal injury or indeed any other aspect of personal injury and wish to speak to Sami or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Sami directly.