Door to Door: a travel guide for disabled people

Before you travel: Key points to consider

Key points to consider | Sources of information and advice | A note of caution - mobility scooters | Insurance | Medical preparations | Legislation - the DDA | Help to travel independently | Personal assistance | Help with costs | Benefits and allowances

If you are planning to make even the shortest journey, you need to know that the whole journey is accessible before you set out.

A problem at any stage of the journey such as not being able to find assistance, not knowing where to go because you can not read the information screens, or a particular vehicle not being accessible could ruin the whole experience, leave you stranded or even stop you from travelling altogether.

It is worth taking the time and trouble to plan your travel arrangements before you set out, so that you can enjoy your trip and the journey itself can be a pleasure.

In particular you should ensure that the arrangements are going to suit your own individual needs.

Booking assistance

The aim of equalities legislation in transport is to enable disabled people to have the same access to travel as everyone else. That means that disabled people should be able to travel by public transport without having to book assistance in advance. They should be able to turn up at a bus or rail station, airport or ferry terminal and expect to receive the same treatment as any other traveller.

Much progress is being made to enable disabled travellers to travel independently, but for travellers who do need assistance when travelling by bus, coach, train, taxi, plane or ship it is worthwhile (and sometimes essential) letting the transport operator know in advance what assistance is needed. That should ensure the necessary assistance is in place when you turn up, appropriate to your particular needs, and should avoid delays in helping you get safely on board as well as help to avoid problems with any equipment, such as a wheelchair, you are taking with you.

Accessible toilets

Knowing that toilets will be available when making journeys is important for everyone, especially when making longer or unfamiliar trips. For disabled people this can be crucial, especially if access to accessible toilets is necessary.

The National Key Scheme (NKS) offers independent access to disabled people to thousands of locked wheelchair accessible public toilets around the UK. The use of a standard key restricts their use in general to disabled people and reduces the risk of vandalism. A key currently costs £3.50 (excluding VAT - see the RADAR website: and is usually available from local authorities, Shopmobilities and Disabled Living Centres, as well as from the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR).

RADAR also publishes a guide to the location of the NKS toilets. The ninth edition of the NKS Guide (published in March 2009) lists approximately 7,000 toilets fitted with NKS locks throughout the UK. It is available from RADAR for £12.25 inclusive of delivery to a UK address. Both guide and key may be ordered on line from the RADAR bookshop: Alternatively, the location of accessible toilets in any region or town may be found in the "Toilets" section of Direct Enquiries (The Nationwide Disabled Access Register) under "Featured Locations":

Key points to remember

The following is just a brief list of the key points to remember when planning any journey:

  • Make sure that the transport vehicles and buildings are accessible at all stages of your journey.
  • Think about when you need to travel, for example it may make your journey easier and more comfortable if you can avoid travelling at rush hour.
  • You may also need to allow a little more time to make the journey, especially if you are using more than one form of transport or have to change vehicles.
  • If you need to pre-book your travel arrangements let the provider know your travel needs and be sure they understand what you require - never assume that people will automatically know or understand your individual needs.
  • Even if you are able to travel independently, you may still need to book assistance, for example wheelchair users will need to book ramps to board most trains. Some operators, usually airline or ferry companies might insist that you travel with a non-disabled companion or personal assistant.
  • Make sure you have all the medication and equipment that you need to make the trip. It is also a good idea to carry a little extra in case you are delayed.
  • If you need to travel with an Assistance Dog, make sure you know the company's rules and regulations. You will also need to check there will be appropriate facilities for them.
  • Make sure that you know what toilet facilities will be available. This is especially important on longer journeys. For example if you are a wheelchair user it is unlikely that you will be able to use the on-board toilet on a long distance coach, so you will need to make sure that there are comfort stops along the way at service stations. You should also remember that transport staff may be able to help you get to the toilet cubicle, but they will not be able to help you once you are inside.
  • It is a good idea to check catering arrangements, especially on longer journeys. On some journeys there may be a trolley or 'at seat' service, but on others such as long distance coaches you may have to get off the coach at a service station, or be expected to take your own food.
  • Make sure that your insurance covers any equipment that you need to travel with, for example wheelchairs.
  • If you are travelling to an unfamiliar place with equipment, it is a good idea to find contact details for a local repair or hire company in case something goes wrong or breaks down. This is especially important if you are travelling abroad. Make sure you also make the appropriate arrangements for your return journey.
  • Don't forget to give good feedback and compliments if your journey goes well, not just complaints if things go wrong.

These are just the basic points for any journey, more specific advice is given in the following sections.

If you are travelling abroad more detailed advice is given in the Going on holiday section.

Image: Return to Top