Rail Travel with Disabilities
There are just over 12 million people in the UK with a long-term illness, impairment or disability, with the most prevalent disability being those affected by mobility. When taking this into account, and considering that 16% of working adults and 45% of adults at pension age have one form of disability or another, that is a good proportion of the population that needs to be taken into account and considered for when building infrastructure, travel capabilities and facilities.
By and large, when it comes to accessibility, infrastructure and advocacy of equal rights with safe practice in the United Kingdom, the UK is generally ahead of the curve within the World and leads from the front. With homes, working spaces, pathways, public health and touristic facilities all maintaining a high standard of this accessibility, things are decidedly better in 2015 for people with disabilities than ever before.
Yet, on the flip-side, over 25% of disabled people say they do not frequently have choice or control over their daily lives, and furthermore a third of disabled people experience difficulties in part due to their impairment when it comes to accessing public, commercial and leisure facilities - so by no means is the UK all the way there yet.
When considering travelling, it's often the case that people with disabilities face many of these difficulties and obstacles, around 29% of people with disabilities state that problems with transport are one of the main barriers to work and one of their largest concerns. So how does the UK's rail infrastructure sit on the scale in all of this Well to start they've attempted to tackle these problems head on and it's working, in the 10 years to 2012, the journeys made with the Disabled Persons Railcard increased by 165% to 4 million, so frequent use of trains by passengers with disabilities is prevailing.
Prior to travel, there has been a steady increase in improving accessibility with correct and reserved parking spaces for those with disabilities, and ease of access to and from stations has improved dramatically with step free access and available lifts throughout most stations in the UK, especially in London.
With improvements happening in terms of accessibility to rail stations, there are still the trains to be dealt with, and for the most part this has improved over time too. It's now the case that many people with disabilities can use rail facilities without any assistance, however a program called Passenger Assist has been taken up and championed by most rail companies within the UK, and can even be booked in advance of the journey - both for train access and within station help, going hand-in-hand with the Disabled Persons Railcard service.
To coincide with these services, extra care has been established for accessible facilities and notice of, additional space with stations and pathways, requests and acting on feedback, automatic doors, dropped kerbs, ramps, handrails, adjustable windows and ticketing, seating and finally signage have all been put into place throughout most rail services and stations in the UK.
Thus for persons with disabilities in the UK who travel by rail, the conditions have gotten better with time and effort, but there is still some way to go.