It’s 2018, and I love the New Year. It’s like the slate has been wiped clean, and there is a whole year of exciting possibilities ahead. I set goals each year, and also think of a theme for the year – a word or phrase which sums up what I want to achieve in the coming 12 months.
Last year was a year of restriction for me. I had several flare ups of my condition, which left me housebound, in a lot of pain and very debilitated. I also had problems with my mobility scooter, meaning it was off the road for a long time, which placed a lot of restrictions in where I could go. I found this all extremely frustrating.
Therefore choosing my theme for the New Year was easy – it’s Freedom. I want to make up for lost time, and get out and about as much as I can.
This blog post is a little different as it doesn’t focus on physical aids, but on discounts, concessions and facilities which enable people with disabilities to get out and about and have fun.
Why not join me in my quest for more freedom this year – you might enjoy it!
Access to the Countryside
We all benefit from being outdoors in the natural environment. But only if we can access it. Natural England is carrying out work on making sure everyone has access to the countryside which you might find interesting.
Their ‘Outdoors for All programme’ works to improve opportunities for everyone in England to enjoy and benefit from the natural environment. It brings together users and providers of services that would not otherwise have access to the countryside to carry out research, understand barriers and improve existing access.
Using Public Transport
There has been a lot of work to make the UK’s public transport network more accessible for people with disabilities. Some of the schemes that offer assistance include:
London Council’s Freedom Pass for travel on public transport
This is a travel pass for disabled people which gives them free travel across London and free bus journeys nationally.
To be eligible for a Freedom pass, you need to to meet two criteria:
- Your sole or principal residence must be in a London borough, and you need to be able to prove this
- Your disability has to be listed in the Transport Act 2000 statutory disabilities list
London Transport Travel Mentoring Scheme
The Travel Mentoring scheme operates a mobility aid recognition scheme.
This provides you with a pass so that you can take your mobility scooter (or other walking aid) on London buses. With the pass, you can also travel free of charge.
I used to travel to London regularly for business, and I used this scheme, which I found out about purely by accident.
I used to travel by train into Kings Cross, taking my scooter on the train. I arranged to meet a Travel Mentor at the station, and she travelled with me on the two buses that I needed to catch to get to my onward destination. This was great, as she explained the process of using the bus’s ramp system.
Basically, you wait until everyone has got on and off the bus, the doors close, then the ramp comes out, and the doors (in the centre of the bus) open again, and I just drove on, and parked in the wheelchair space. I think if I’d been on my own I would have wondered what was happening when the doors closed before the ramp came down! Then when I wanted off the bus, I simply pressed a special bell (within the wheelchair space), and did it all in reverse.
To use the scheme your scooter has to be of a certain size, and the Travel Mentor will check this and issue you with a pass immediately.
Many of the London underground stations unfortunately aren’t accessible yet. And given the age of the network, it will take a long time to make the necessary modifications. This means that the bus network is a great way of getting around (plus you see more from a bus than the underground).
Travel Mentors will travel with you on a few journeys if you lack confidence, and help you to become an independent traveller. They can also offer advice on planning an accessible route. Mentoring is free of charge and available Monday to Friday, 08.00 – 18.00
To find out more:
Phone: 020 3054 4361 (TfL call charges)
Transport for London also operates a ‘Please offer me a seat’ system.
This is aimed at passengers who have a disability or invisible impairments, conditions or illnesses who find it difficult to get a seat.
Once you have registered, you receive a badge and a card, asking people to ‘please offer me a seat’.
You can also order a travel support card, which helps you to communicate any assistance or information requirements you have to staff. There is space on the card to write down what assistance or information you need, and this can be used on any London transport services.
Contact Transport for London Customer Services on 0343 222 1234 to find out more and apply.
Live outside London?
Check out the details of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme for details on how to get a bus pass in your area.
I have a card which entitles me to free travel on local buses. The application process was simple. I had to complete a short form, giving my name and address details, and provide a passport-sized photography and proof of my disability. I used a copy of my PIP (Personal Independence Payment) entitlement.
National Express Disabled Coachcard – save ⅓ off coach travel with the coachcard and travel across the UK at any time (peak or off peak).
Currently, the Coachcard costs £10 and is valid for one year.
Disabled persons railcard – the railcard offers ⅓ off rail fares for a disabled person and a companion, making travel by train that much cheaper, and enjoyable too.
National Rail also offers other concessionary discounts for the visually impaired, wheelchair users travelling with a companion, and adults accompanying disabled children.
If you enjoy travelling by rail, then the railcard offers an opportunity to save on travel costs.
The railcard costs £20 per year, and provides good value even if you only travel a couple of times by train.
Applying for a railcard is easy, see eligibility criteria and apply here.
The disabled persons railcard website also provides useful information about travelling by train. This includes details on how to book any assistance that you might need.
Another useful resource for travelling by train is the ‘stations made easy’ interactive tool. This helps you to plan journeys through stations, avoiding any features that would be difficult for you, such as stairs.
Toll roads, bridges and tunnels
All major toll bridges offer a disability discount – but all differ. Its worth checking in advance.
Also the Humber Bridge only offers a discount to people in receipt of the higher mobility component of PIP or Disability Living Allowance.
You can travel toll-free through the Tyne Tunnel by applying for a pass which you display in your windscreen. This opens the barriers automatically and is free.
The pass needs to be renewed annually and you do not receive a reminder – so you may want to make a note of when you get it and apply to renew the pass in advance of the expiry date.
To travel for free on the M6 toll road, you must apply for an exemption pass in advance. Eligibility criteria for the pass is currently:
- The higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Enhanced rate of the mobility component of the Personal Independence Allowance
- The War Pensioners Mobility Supplement
The pass is valid for 3 years.
The Dartford Crossing is free to vehicles that are exempt from road tax because of a disability classification (so people in receipt of higher rate mobility benefits). As vehicles are scanned as they cross, this will be picked up automatically. But please note the disabled person must be in the car at the time of the crossing.
Criteria does change from time to time, so it’s best to check directly with each toll operator.
Motability has recently done a comprehensive roundup of charges and concessions available.
Leisure attractions all across the UK offer special discounts for people with disabilities. These are often applied not just to the disabled adult or child, but their carer as well. Proof may be required to receive the discount, this could be a letter from the DWP or your blue badge if you are a blue badge holder.
Not all attractions will advertise their discounts so if you are planning a visit always ask if there are discounted ticket prices for people with disabilities and their carer. Examples of places which offer discounted tickets for the disabled include the following popular attractions:
Merlin Entertainments which operate many attractions including Chessington World of Adventures, London Eye, Legoland Discovery Centre and Resort, Madame Tussauds, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Warwick Castle, Blackpool Tower and London Dungeon offer a range of concessions and services for disabled people.
They include a free carer pass. A disabled access pass for certain people, to avoid queuing. Hearing assistance services at many attractions, and type talk calls if you need to speak with them.
• Cinemas and Theatres offer concessionary ticket prices – The Cinema Exhibitors Association (CEA) offer a CEA Card Scheme which offers free tickets to carers accompanying a disabled person to the cinema.
• London Zoo and other zoos across the UK.
• Local or regional events.
There are many other events and leisure activities which offer discounts to disabled people and always ask before making a booking.
The National Trust’s admission policy admits the necessary companion, or carer, of a disabled visitor free of charge, on request, while the normal membership, or admission fee, applies to the disabled visitor.
To save having to ‘request’ a companion’s free entry each time, you can apply for an ‘Access for all Admit One Card’.
This is made out in the name of the person with the disability, not the companion, so there is not a restriction to taking the same person on each visit.
To request an Access for all Admit One Card, either email the Supporter Service Centre or phone them on 01793 817634.
They will need the name and full postal address of the disabled person.
Gigs and TV Shows
If you like to go to gigs, many venues will offer either a discount rate for you and a carer, or a carer can go for free. Wembley Arena/Stadium, the 02 and even the big festivals all do this and generally have great access – you usually get a great viewing spot! Some examples:
Facilities include audio loop and some dropped down counter positions at their box office.
Car parking on site for blue badge holders (need to be pre-booked)
Dropped counters for wheelchair users at refreshments and merchandise counters
Wheelchair accessible spaces within the auditorium, and a number of seats for people who can walk, but who have a disability
Assistance dogs are welcome, but may not be able to remain in the auditorium for some events. If this is the case, they will make alternative provision
There is an infra-red hearing assistance system available
There are 3 accessible toilets which are radar key operated (avoidable from reception and customer service booths if you don’t have your own)
It’s always best to pre-book and check what is available in advance, via the Specialist Sales Line: 020 8782 5629
If you fancy watching a TV show being filmed, then having a disability shouldn’t be a barrier. The BBC and other companies offer facilities such as wheelchair access, adapted toilets, induction loops and sign language interpretation.
Trent Bridge Cricket Ground
Ascot Race Course
Event Mobility hires scooters and wheelchairs at many different events around the country.
This is ideal if you’re travelling alone, or by public transport, and can’t take your electric scooter or a wheelchair with you.
Costs are usually £25 for a mobility scooter and £10 for a manual wheelchair.
Most facilities will ask for proof of your disability before issuing you with a discount. For example, Newcastle United Football Club asks for proof of any one of the following before giving a discount.
- Receipt of enhanced rate of the care element and mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP)
- Receipt of mid-rate care element or the high rate mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
- Receipt of Attendance Allowance
- War Pensioners’ Mobility Allowance or War or Service Disablement Pension for 80% or more disability
- Blind or partially sighted registration certificate (BD8 or CVI Certificate) or evidence from an eye specialist, for example an optometrist, that the individual would qualify to be registered as severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted)
Some venues will accept the Access Card as proof of entitlement.
Information, Evidence, Discounts and Opportunities for Disabled People
The Access Card translates your disability / impairment into symbols which highlight the barriers you face and the reasonable adjustments you might need.
This then informs providers quickly and discreetly about the support you need and may gain you access to things like concessionary ticket prices and complex reasonable adjustments without having to go into loads of personal detail.
Its all based on your rights under the Equality Act and providers responsibilities.
The card costs £15 for 3 years. But check what is available in your area before you buy. I found only 2 facilities registered with the access card in the region where I live. And although the card sounds like a good idea, you don’t need the card to get the concessions and discounts.