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Travelling in a wheelchair

(21 Posts)
Franbern Tue 21-Nov-23 09:11:01

I have quite bad mobility problems, and normally use a mobility scooter for getting around. These are a little big for public transport, so just over a year ago I treated myself to a small electric wheelchair. This is wonderful for public transport.
I travel totally by mself and have just returned from a few days visiting my eldest daughter on the Essex borders of London. Thanks to the wonderful Passenger Assistance which I arrange well in advance, this is a perfectly easy and comfortable journey for me. Also, if booked well in advance , extremely cheap using Disabled Passenger card. My journey invloves an overland train to Paddington - to get on and off I require a ramp, I transfer to a normal seat but use the journey to charge up the chair's batteries. Once off the train I can take myself over to the new Elizabeth Line, which is extremely accessible and that takes me to Liverpool Street, where, again I need ramp to get on and off the overland train . (In the past I have used the underground and found TFL very helpful)
Before I was quite as disabled, I would have Passenger Assistance take me to and from each train either with electric trolleys or their own manual wheelchairs. With my own chair, I am much more independent and can take time looking around the many shops at the large stations.

Just wanted to write this so that peple know that it is perfectly possible to make long journeys on public transport. regardless of any disablity. Passenger Assistance on both overland trains and TFL, are, withut exception, really helpful and obliging. I lo Cree ve it that at 82 years of age and disabled, I am still able to get around the country to visit people.
The biggest problem is not being able to take suitcase!!! I have a very large bag which hangs on the back of this chair and I have to use that for clothes, etc. Okay for a few days, could not manage a fortnight though!!!!!!

If anyone is worried abut using public transport to travel arund UK, and would like to chat about it, please PM me..

NotSpaghetti Tue 21-Nov-23 09:13:59

Good for you Franbern - so pleased. These small adventures are good for us I think. How kind of you to encourage others.

polomint Tue 21-Nov-23 09:27:11

Great that you are still so independant and have so much confidence for travelling about. Long may you continue on your travels. People in general are so helpful if you need assistance. There are not enough ramps in certain places I've noticed

sodapop Tue 21-Nov-23 12:42:31

Great to see such a positive post Franbern that will encourage others to get around who are in a similar situation. Hope to hear more of your travels on here.

Hetty58 Tue 21-Nov-23 12:51:07

We're very lucky here in London, with such good public transport. All the black cabs are wheelchair accessible too. In Westfield, Stratford, there are good disability bathrooms with hoists etc. for carers and people who need washing/changing - like my neighbour's teenage daughter with autism.

silverlining48 Tue 21-Nov-23 12:59:16

Good for you Franbern. Hope you had a lovely visit.

kittylester Tue 21-Nov-23 13:31:28

That's really lovely Franbern. Sadly it doesn't match my eldest son's experience.

It was fairly common for him still be sitting on the train as it left his stop and where DH or I were waiting for him. A chase across country then ensued to get to the next stop so he wasn't waiting in the wind and rain. He eventually started pulling the emergency stop if it looked as though they had forgotten him. He has been helped off a train and left at the bottom of a huge flight of stairs in his wheelchair. I could go on ......and on!

Chocolatelovinggran Tue 21-Nov-23 14:18:41

That's shocking kittylester. I was inspired by Franbern's post, then dismayed by yours!

Georgesgran Tue 21-Nov-23 14:42:54

I didn’t want to rain on Franbern’s parade, but I could tell some eye-watering tales.
Things are better now, but as DD2 flies from Newcastle, and there’s only one Ambilift, it’s often an hour after she lands before she taken off.
One night, she was driving home very late, when she was pulled over by blue lights. The officer told her to get in his car, so she asked him to unload her wheelchair from the boot - he just walked away and drove off.
On another occasion, trying to cross a very busy junction in Newcastle, a police officer parked up, stopped the traffic and helped her into her fiancé’s apartment block.
Hailing a taxi is almost impossible, so thankfully, there’s Uber now.
British Airways took the biscuit though, when they didn’t load her wheelchair on her flight to New York!

I’m pleased to say things have improved and it’s great to read of positive experiences now.

Franbern Tue 21-Nov-23 17:38:42

Oh yes, I do know that there are still many pitfalls for people with disabilities to move around, even locally. I am fortunate that I can transfer easily and even walk a short distance. Toilet facilities are one of the most difficult things. So few are really accessible.
Last year I was at the Telford International Centre, and found that I could not purchase myself a snack or a drink from any of their machines. The selection and payment button was at about 5ft 6 inches level. Yes, people are very helpful, but that is not the point. I should not have to rely on someone else being around to assist me.

I will not go into the problems with narrow and often blocked pavements. For my 150 mile journey WsM to Chingford in London, the most stressful is the first quarter a mile from my flat to the the station. The wheelchair is nowhee as near as robust and easily controllable as a scooter, and the narrow and very damaged pavement, makes me very tense and scared of being tipped out.

But I just wanted people to know that trains, underground, etc is very easily used and Passenger Assistance is great. Only once ever had problems on the underground when the train did not wait long enough for the single staff member to get down the ramp. But easily sorted by preventing the doors closing.
Must say my one experience of flying with someone in a wheelchair, meant I would never try it again.

Georgesgran Tue 21-Nov-23 17:56:19

Thankfully DD2 is very determined - she lets very little stop her. She’s had 12 flights so far to Spain and Majorca this year and is off again next week, just an internal business flight.
We often wonder if the airports etc actually have any disabled people to advise them - sometimes it’s the simplest things that could be avoided that go wrong.

Whiff Tue 21-Nov-23 19:50:37

Franbern if it wasn't for travel assistance on the trains I couldn't travel . It takes away any worry about getting on and off trains especially if you have connections and they always take me to my seat and make sure I am comfortable before leaving me. Even on the underground/ overground local trains I can get help from the guard or station staff getting on and off the train. I have used a walking stick since I was 29 now 65.

Bus drivers are helpful here and wait until I am sat down before moving I don't ask they just do it. Plus always lower the bus for me.

Taxi drivers are great as I have to perch on the edge of the front seat and they lift my legs in and out and give me a hand standing up and always carry my shopping to my door or some wait until I open up and put it in my hall. I always give them more than their fare as they are always so quick to arrive and chatty plus helping me.

I couldn't use a mobility scooter as my neurological condition means my hands tremble all the time and my limbs can suddenly stiffen . I can't walk in a straight line and tend to veer off which ends with me going up someone's drive or into a wall ,fence or bush before I can control my body.

But that's me and I was born with this condition. I don't let it stop me doing what I want. But just my way.

Luckygirl3 Tue 21-Nov-23 22:31:02

Passenger Assist on the railways is amazing! I used it for the first time this summer and was blown away by it. Didn't help with the crowded trains and too few carriages, but the transfers were great.

kittylester Tue 21-Nov-23 22:34:23

You were lucky, Luckygirl.

crazyH Tue 21-Nov-23 22:34:45

I hardly travel anywhere by train….hardly travel, full stop 😂

silverlining48 Tue 21-Nov-23 22:43:25

I had to use assistance on a flight back this summer. It went well for some of the transfers but wasn’t perfect by any means, often felt I was going to be left waiting to embark. On return we were left in a waiting area far too long because they had no one to drive the assistance vehicle.
It took an age but I was grateful but pleased that I don’t need to use it normally. When we eventually got to baggage pick up ours was in the middle of the waiting area on its own. Luckily I noticed it.

jocork Fri 24-Nov-23 17:41:45


That's really lovely Franbern. Sadly it doesn't match my eldest son's experience.

It was fairly common for him still be sitting on the train as it left his stop and where DH or I were waiting for him. A chase across country then ensued to get to the next stop so he wasn't waiting in the wind and rain. He eventually started pulling the emergency stop if it looked as though they had forgotten him. He has been helped off a train and left at the bottom of a huge flight of stairs in his wheelchair. I could go on ......and on!

Sadly I've heard many such horror stories so I'm glad I'm still fully mobile. I got off a train once and a man in a walking frame was trying to get on. His partner got on first and tried to hold the door open but failed and the train left with her on it and him still on the platform. It was the Elizabeth Line outside London to the West. I wrote to complain on their behalf but don't know what happened to them. The response I received said that the doors don't respond to putting your arm in the door to stop them closing so if he missed the train it was because he was too late. I was quite shocked by the whole incident!

Galaxy62 Sat 25-Nov-23 08:51:11

Thank you for the info you have given it is very reassuring to know as we get older, esp atm the talk is about car insurance increases. I recently had an accident abroad and had to come home in a wheelchair and was very impressed with all the airports assistance it was very efficient and friendly

Georgesgran Sat 25-Nov-23 08:59:13

I’m pleased you had a good experience Galaxy62 hopefully a bit of a novelty for you and not to be repeated!
Unfortunately, for regular wheelchair travellers there’s often a great deal of difference between the assistance offered - it can vary from near non-existent and dismissive to overbearingly patronizing, often with inappropriate comments.
It’s really good to have some positive comments though.

Georgesgran Sat 25-Nov-23 09:01:30

No idea why novelty is highlighted - I put it in ‘ marks.

Chardy Sat 25-Nov-23 09:49:27

Good to hear positive stories, especially to counterbalance today's story that EasyJet have eventually replaced the wheelchair they managed to destroy, leaving the user with no transport for weeks on end. If companies don't train their staff to treat wheelchairs like people's legs, then breakages will continue.