For disabled people, transport can put huge barriers in the way of something as ordinary as a day out. Philip, who is supported by Livability, set out on a journey of discovery.
Finding your way around London can be complicated, made more so if you have accessibility needs – only 25% of Underground stations are deemed accessible*. Philip, a wheelchair user who lives at Livability Brookside House, a residential home in Edgware, north London, decided to do some research on how easy a trip across the capital would be. We hear about Philip’s experiences:
‘I thought I’d take a good look at accessibility and London Transport,’ says Philip. ‘As chair of our residents’ group, I wanted to find ways that would help the people I live with to be able to travel more.’
Philip travelled with staff member Richard to the ExCel centre in London’s Docklands, venue for an accessible transport exhibition. A journey of 20 miles or so, this route isn’t the simplest. ‘It was complicated – we got a taxi to Edgware station, which now has a lift, I’m glad to say,’ Philip says. ‘Then we used three different Underground lines to get to the ExCel.’
Philip experienced the good and the bad on what he calls his ‘guinea pig run’. ‘What was helpful is the facility to book your journey with Transport for London up to 24 hours ahead. This means you will be met by an assistant at every station. I found this really useful.’
Not so great were access problems with some Underground and rail services, where the gap between platform and transport can seem daunting, even if equipment is on hand to help. ‘In the same way that bus ramps used to be really steep, and now the bus drops down to pavement level, we need to see this for trains,’ says Philip.
Having arrived at the ExCel, Philip was impressed with some of the solutions he saw at the transport show, including a new taxi designed with plenty of room for electric wheelchairs.
‘This travel research wasn’t just for me but for the people here,’ he explains. ‘Sometimes people can feel apprehensive about giving it a go. I’ve been worried about it too. You need to know what’s available and where help is if you need it. I’ve felt nervous about finding my way to and around London stations, especially in rush hour.’
Philip laughs when he remembers feeling nervous on a train for a different reason: ‘I’d been to a West Ham v Blackpool match and was surrounded by Blackpool supporters. You can bet I hid my West Ham shirt!’
Philip’s investigative journey has given housemate Peter confidence to start thinking about making a similar trip. ‘Yes, Peter’s got different mobility challenges to me, but he wants to be able to do a trip like that by himself. That’s something I like to see, when we want to keep learning.’
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