Public transport is becoming more accessible. Here we look at what to expect from newer trains, coaches, buses and taxis and ferries, planes and trams and light railways. We tell you where to find accessible services for blind and partially sighted travellers and people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, plus information about travelling in your wheelchair or mobility scooter.
- Introduction (this page)
- Blind or partially sighted travellers
3.1 Scooters on buses
- Community transport
- Trams & light railways
- Transport in London
- Safety for wheelchair users
- Your legal rights
To make your journey go as smoothly as possible it's best to plan and prepare. We look at:
- journey planning
- announcements and communication
- accessible toilets
- loop systems
- how to report back or complain.
There are travel tips and advice from experienced travellers, as well.
For each mode of public transport, we look at specific issues under the following headings. On this page, we cover how these apply in general.
Before reading the guides on specific transport types, you may find it useful to see how your legal rights apply. There is additional information on issues of relevance for blind and partially sighted travellers and safety for wheelchair users.
These are some resources that can help you plan your journey. You can also find information on planning journeys in London and for specific types of transport using the links in the sidebar.
Google Maps has a directions feature that can plan journeys using public transport. You can select which transport types you prefer and specify routes with less walking or fewer transfers.
Traveline (England, Scotland and Wales) provides timetables for local and national journeys on buses, coaches and trains, and has details on access.
Translink (Northern Ireland) has an online journey planner for train, bus and metro services.
People with learning disabilities
Mencap has easy-read factsheets on accessible transport, covering topics such as bus concessions, Taxicard and Dial-a-Ride.
For people in Northern Ireland, the publication 'Travel Safe - A guide to being out and about for people with learning disabilities' covers all manner of situations involving public transport.
Contact the relevant transport operator to find out what help their staff can provide. You usually have to give at least 24 hours notice. It's best to phone to check every part of your journey. For trains, there's Passenger Assist, which is a centralised planning and booking service.
Many transport operators offer concessions for disabled and older people to travel. Contact the relevant transport provider. All local authorities are obliged by law to offer concessionary bus travel to older passengers.
The Equality Act 2010 means that transport operators have to provide good access, accessible toilets and well-lit, clearly signed stations with tactile markers (for example, at platform edges).
The National Key Scheme (formerly the RADAR Key Scheme) provides people in the UK with access to over 9,000 locked accessible public toilets. The scheme is operated by the national charity Disability Rights UK, which sells keys for £4.50 and provides a map of the location of the toilets. An app for smartphone users is also available. To buy a key, contact Disability Rights UK or ask your local authority.
Changing Places is a coalition of organisations (including Mencap) that campaigns for toilets that have extra room and more facilities than standard accessible toilets:
Clear and audible announcements on public transport are becoming more common, including information on delays or changes to travel routes. Transport companies are obliged to communicate with all passengers equally, including disabled passengers.
Reporting back and complaining
It's important to complain about poor service, so that things improve.
As well as getting in touch with customer services departments by phone or email, you can use your smartphone to complain on the spot via social media (eg Facebook, Twitter).
England, Scotland and Wales
Always contact the local transport provider first. If you're not satisfied with their response, then take the steps recommended in the relevant sections for each transportation type.
First contact Translink with complaints about their train, metro or bus services. If you're not satisfied with their response, contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.
- Plan your trip - check websites, phone your transport provider, talk to other people.
- Ask the transport operator if they offer assistance or travel training.
- Some transport companies can give you a 'Safe Journey' card, which has details of your needs written on it. You can show it to the driver or staff to privately ask for help. For an example, see www.firstgroup.com/safejourney.
- If you're not feeling confident, take a friend or relative with you.
- Book assistance with the transport operator in advance - most need 24 hours notice.
- Plan for each step of the journey - think about food, drink and any medication needed.
- Check that there'll be accessible toilets and facilities.
- For where to find blue-badge holders parking spaces at bus stations, ferry terminals and airports, visit:
- Make sure your mobile phone is charged before you set out. Take emergency contact details, the phone number of the transport provider and other contacts.
Last updated: August 2015
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