Getting Around

Private Transport:

Public Transport:
The Underground
Docklands Light Railway

Overseas Travel:
Air Travel
Sea Travel

Land Travel

One thing that is harder for disabled children is getting around; they all too often have to rely upon their parents/carers to go outside the home. I know that all children rely on their parents/carers to an extent but when they become teenagers more often they want to be more independent and go out on their own (a daunting prospect for all parents/carers but maybe more so if your child has a disability).

One other important aspect of being out and about is the issue of wanting to use a toilet and accessible facilities. All public conveniences and very often disabled facilities in places such as cinemas, theatres, train stations, airports etc. use the
National Key Scheme (NKS)
 operated through an
organisation called RADAR which offers independent access to disabled people to around 7,000 locked public toilets around the country.  RADAR would like all providers of accessible toilets to keep their toilets unlocked if at all possible.  The NKS is suggested for use only if the provider concerned has to keep the toilets locked to stop vandalism and misuse.

We would suggest anyone with a disabled child purchases one of these keys and keep it with them at all times when out – you never know when your child will need the toilet. Visit the RADAR shop to purchase your key.

Private Transport:

From our point of view with Matthew in a wheelchair we have found transport a real problem and if it wasn’t for the fact that I drive he would not go very far, even so just being able to drive doesn’t help when it comes to transporting a wheelchair you have to have some form of adaptation made to a vehicle to accommodate this.

When Matthew was in a manual wheelchair I would manually lift him into the car and then his chair into the boot but when he acquired his powered wheelchair I could no longer lift this manually into the car boot because of its weight (65Kg) and it didn’t fold down like a manual wheelchair so I had to look at vehicles that could be adapted. I was also conscious by now of the fact that Matthew was getting heavier and bending down to put him in the car was putting a strain on my back. Therefore when looking for an appropriate vehicle I had two main criteria: a boot large enough to accommodate the powered wheelchair and a vehicle high enough from the ground to enable me to lift Matthew in without bending down. My final choice was a Cherokee Jeep which had ample boot space to accommodate an electric hoist for lifting the powered wheelchair and the rear seat was at a level whereby Matthew could be lifted in and out without bending.


As Matthew grows further, he is becoming almost impossible to manually lift so we are having to change our vehicle again this time to one that has full wheelchair access so that Matthew can travel in his powered wheelchair.

We have trialled the Citroen Berlingo with a wheelchair adaptation for a few months.  Although very convenient, we found it a bit on the small side for Matthew's electric chair.

The Citroen Berlingo ( A bit small for powered wheelchairs)

After further investigation and trialling of  larger MPV vehicles, we decided upon the Citroen C8 with a fully accessible wheelchair adaptation.

(Pictures courtesy of Hill Gruau)

The £25,000 C8 has provided Matthew with convenient transport for just over five years now, but unfortunately his chair has required modification and has increased in size.  This has meant his chair only just fits.  We are once again having to look for a larger vehicle.

Remember to see our Motoring & Travel page.

Public Transport: 

Over the years some things have got better here although there are still a number of hurdles and it is always best to check with the appropriate transport company before travelling.
I am no expert here as generally we use our own vehicle but as Matthew and Tommy get older they will want to travel more independently which ultimately means the use of Public Transport.

I am hopeful that things will get easier to enable disabled travellers to confidently use public transport; here are a few points to note:

  • Taxis – Most companies will now have a few wheelchair accessible vehicles but they are all too often being used for specific regular transportation (ie. school runs or airport transfers). So it does depend when you need a taxi as to whether there will be a suitable one available. Again if for example you go to town shopping and need to get a taxi at a rank you will need to wait a little longer for a wheelchair accessible one to become available – you may have to call a firm to send an appropriate vehicle out to you.

Your local council may operate taxi schemes, for example, using vouchers or tokens. Contact them to check if there is a taxi scheme in your area. If you qualify to use such a scheme, you will be given a card or a number of tokens. These can be exchanged with certain taxi firms instead of cash. The local council then pays the taxi firm.

Access Anyone
is a local taxi firm that we use regularly and would highly recommend.

Special needs transport taxi and mini bus service.  Telephone: 01702 520 990 or visit the Access Anyone website.

  • London taxis -
    All London taxis are accessible to disabled customers and can be booked over the telephone.

    Telephone: 0871 871 8710 or visit the One Number Taxis website.


  • Dial-a-Ride
    door-to-door accessible transport service for people who have some form of physical, mental or sensory problem, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to independently use public transport. Generally available in many large towns and cities, contact your local council for information and availability on this service.

  • Limousines Hire
    For the boy's 13th Birthday, we treated them to a trip to see Grease in London's west end in a big black limo supplied by 1st Event Limousines.  After experimenting with a number of Limo's, we chose the enormous 4x4 Ford Excursion. Although we had to man handle Matthew into the vehicle, its sheer size made it very easy.

    We had to use a fold-up electric wheelchair so that it would fit in the car.  The company were very helpful.

  • Trains – Generally most trains are now accessible but you will have to contact the station you are travelling from first before travelling to ensure that assistance is available (if needed) to access the platform and/or train. For more information take a look at the
    Rail Travel for Disabled Passengers leaflet.
    If you are a regular user of the trains then it may be worth getting a disabled persons railcard for your child – although it doesn’t reduce their fare it will entitle the parent /carer they travel with to a third discount off the fare. For more information visit the Disabled Person Railcard website.

  • Underground Railway Systems in London (The Tube) and Glasgow (The Subway) were mostly built in late Victorian times and as a result generally have very poor or no access for disabled people, especially wheelchair users.
    However some parts of the London Underground, especially the newer lines, are now accessible, and there is a continuing scheme of works to upgrade other parts of the system, which will include some of the older stations. For more information take a look at the London Undergrounds leaflet
    Unlocking London for All
    Transport for London (TFL) and Scope have produced the 'Tube Access Guide:
    How to plan a Tube journey avoiding stairs and escalators

    If you live in London there are a number of different schemes available to you including the Travel Assistance Scheme, Taxi card and Dial-a-Ride.

  • Dockland Light Railway (DLR) - was the first fully accessible railway in the UK, making access for wheelchair users much easier.

  • Buses New single deck and double deck buses are designed to be accessible to disabled people, including wheelchair users. Local councils must offer disabled people in their area a minimum 50 per cent concession on all local bus services; there is no charge for the bus pass. Check with your local council for concessions in your area.

    From April 1 2006 people with disabilities and people over 60 in England can get an annual pass for free off-peak local travel in their local area. Off-peak means 9.30am Monday to Friday and all day weekends and bank holidays.

    If you already have a concessionary bus pass, your council should have contacted you. If not, ask your council for details of the local scheme and any additional travel concessions in your area.


Overseas Travel:

Not something your children would do alone but something necessary for travelling abroad is using air or sea.

  •  Air travel - if you need a particular service or facility, always check that it is available before booking your flight. Below are some of the services that airlines and airports should be able to provide on request.  These services should be available if you have a sensory, physical or learning disability:

  • Assistance to reach check-in.

  • Help with registration at check-in. 

  • A briefing for you and any escort or companion on emergency procedures and the layout of the cabin.

  • Help with getting on and off the plane. 

  • Help with stowing and retrieving baggage on the plane. 

  • An on-board wheelchair (not always available)

  • Someone to meet you off the plane and help you find your way around the airport.

For more information please refer to the
Access to Air Travel for Disabled People – Code of Practice

At present, this is a voluntary code for UK companies only but a lot of its content is reflected in European and international documents covering best practice.

We have made a number of trips overseas and have always found the airlines (especially Easy jet) and airports to be very helpful – the key is to plan ahead and let all the relevant organisations know in advance of your needs and requirements.

Singapore Airlines has placed orders for the new Airbus A380.  It is reported that a wheelchair accessible toilet will be available that will be large enough to also accommodate a carer. More information HERE.

  •  Sea Travel - before booking your journey or cruise, check with the Ferry Company, cruise operator or travel agent that they will be able to help with any requirements you have. Most ferry companies require disabled people to be accompanied by an able-bodied companion.

     Most UK ports have good facilities, within Europe, however, this can vary. If possible, check before you book to ensure your requirements will be met. For example, check for wheelchair ramps and accessible toilets.

  •  Land Travel - Travelling abroad by road may be the only option left to you.  Due to flying restrictions, we now have to travel to our favourite villa in The Algarve by road.

    The vehicle:  If you do not have a suitably adapted vehicle they are many shapes and sizes available for hire.  See our Motoring & Travel page for a list of hire companies.  Ensure you have comprehensive insurance and European breakdown cover for the journey.

    Eurotunnel:  It's worth noting that Tesco's Clubcard vouchers can be exchanged for Euro Tunnel tokens.  Check prices with Eurotunnel then visit Tesco online to convert the required number of vouchers.  When you receive the tokens from Tesco in the post, simply book the Euro Tunnel by phone quoting "Tesco" and the token numbers.

    Plan your route and hotels: If you don't have satellite navigation, Google maps will provide turn by turn routes to your destination.  We used Google maps for our journey to The Algarve via three hotel stops with no wrong turns.  Don't forget to print the return journey!!

    Hotels:  We use the Novotel group of hotels.  Most are very cheap, basic and clean and also close to main routes.  Hotels will have to be pre-booked for your journey, so it is important to communicate with them via email and explain your needs.  Continental elevators can sometimes be too small for large wheelchairs so insist on ground floor rooms.  The Novotel hotels we have used can be found HERE.

    Tolls: Many roads on the continent are toll roads.  There are ticket stations where you simply take a ticket and carry on with your journey.  Later on you will have to stop at a pay station (most of which are manned 24 hours), pay your toll and carry on your journey.  Whilst travelling to The Algarve, the tolls ranged from EUR 1.50 to a massive EUR 42.50.  Another useful website is Mappy.  This site will provide locations of speed cameras, toll booths and the cost.

    Fuel: Fuel pumps are the same as in the UK. Black for Diesel and
    Green for unleaded petrol.  Fuel is much cheaper in Spain and Portugal.  France is about the same as the UK now.


For more information on all aspects of travelling take a look at the following Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) website.