Getting from A to B on public transport can be challenging at times, especially when living with a disability. Now, two disabled travellers have had a candid conversation on what more needs to be done to ensure public transport is inclusive across the board.
Chris Wood, founder of Flying Disabled, and Anne Luttman-Johnston shared their views on all things public transport and accessibility during their appearance on the podcast, Let’s Talk About It – hosted by law firm Irwin Mitchell.
After breaking her back aged 21, Anne, who is now a wheelchair user, vowed she would not let disability or inaccessibility stop her from travelling the world and fulfilling her sense of adventure.
But, like many disabled travellers, when it comes to jetting off it can come with some apprehension.
Anne says: “I suffer such anxiety when I’m parted from my wheelchair, because my wheelchair is my legs. My wheelchair is my freedom. I love my wheelchair. I don’t look on it negatively. I look on it incredibly positively.”
Discovering the challenges that wheelchair users face when it comes to flying – such as being unable to store a wheelchair in the cabin of most commercial flights – and other barriers faced on public transport, the onus on improved accessibility is evident.
In the UK there are 13.9 million people living with a disability, yet society still has a lot to do before access is available, especially on public transport. During the podcast, both Chris and Anne reveal times they experienced inaccessible travel.
Travelling by train is one of the most common forms of public transport, but Chris and Anne found trains had many obstacles and problems. On occasion, Chris
Anne reflects: “It rather puts me off train travel, because I just like to be able to do things spontaneously, but you’re supposed to book assistance 24 hours in advance.
“You have to tell them what train you’re going to be on. Well, it’s fair enough to say what train I’m coming up to London on – but how long am I going to be in London, what time train am I going to get home and how long is it going to take me to get across London to the station?”
Through Chris and Anne’s discussion, it is clear more needs to be done.
Neil Whiteley, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, adds: “It’s fascinating to hear first-hand accounts of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities while travelling and concerning to learn of the many obstacles people face on a daily basis.
“It’s clear that, as a nation, we’re not doing enough to ensure public transport, from rail and bus right through to air travel, is accessible to everyone.
“Even simple changes, such as train ramps which don’t require staff to assemble, or cabin space for wheelchairs on flights, could make a world of difference to travellers with restricted mobility.
“We’re extremely appreciative that Anne and Chris could offer us this candid insight – and we hope those in the travel industry will now respond.”
Listen to Let’s Talk About It to hear Chris and Anne’s episode here, and catch up on past episodes looking at money, sport and employment.