How to help disabled people on public transport

Travel has always been a **sitch** for me. I’ve definitely come a long way from when I was a teenager and petrified of travel. Now, I’m learning that it’s not a me problem – it’s the system.

It’s the expectation that disabled people don’t travel or that we can’t make our own choices. For example, I’d book a “wheelchair taxi” and the phone operator would laugh and say “you’re not going to get any of those tonight love” or bus drivers simply rolling away as they see me. I’m always asked how people can help me. I thought I’d share how non disabled people can help a wheelchair user when out and about on public transport.

Disclaimer: As always, this is just my experience – always ask consent before helping someone you don’t know.

Speak up if you see something not quite right

This weekend whilst in London I was on boarding a bus. A parent with a pram was in the wheelchair space. I asked to sit there and I was greeted with a grunt that she was there first. It was stressful and started to feel unsafe. After 2 stops I tried again and said “it says it’s a wheelchair priority space” to which a woman said to me “I’m sorry you have to deal with this”. Of course, we don’t know peoples’ situations and how their day is going – but it would have been nice to have someone speak up for me too. Those situations can be draining and sometimes it’s nice when someone has your back. Anyway we got there in the end and the parent huffed and moved. 

A little later though a lovely woman with a pram saw me and I was apprehensive, she smiled and said “you have priority”. I sighed with relief and thanked her. Lovely – that’s how it should be done…

Help signal train staff

When on trains, it’s quite well known now it’s luck of the draw. Things have improved loads with apps such as passenger assist to be able to book the ramps. However, there are still times that you are forgotten about. There is a moment sometimes where I’m panicking that I’m going to end up in edinburgh 😅. So whenever someone offers to find a member of staff when we’re at my stop I’m always so grateful.  

“Taxi” 👋🏼

Getting taxis can be a nightmare sometimes. Even through using an app – I’ve had times where taxis have arrived at my destination and simply drove off because they don’t want to let me in. It can be embarrassing, humiliating and deflating all at once.

Sometimes this is where non disabled allyship really helps. I’ve had people help me hail a taxi and just be “there” and I’ve even had people offer their taxi knowing it was a good wheelchair car and they could get the next one. It’s those little things that mean so much for me a wheelchair user.

The amount of anxiety that goes into a simple day can be exhausting – so I hope these little tips can help for the next time you see someone like me trying to do their day. 

Can you think of any other tips when travelling? Let me know!