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My experience of using London transport – by Zara Todd

Blog by TfA member Zara Todd. This blog and its content reflect the views of the author only.

We all have that friend, you know the one – it doesn’t matter what the occasion – they are always late. I have spent most of my adult life desperately trying not to be that friend. I quite often fail. Despite giving more planning and more time to my journey than most of my non-disabled friends do, invariably something goes not quite to plan and yet again I’m late.

Being late often feels easier than admitting how hit-and-miss accessibility on London’s transport system is. One broken lift can add an hour. The sheer amount of time I spend navigating London’s transport system to have a fulfilling and interesting life is a dirty little secret which I try and keep between me and the TfL journey planner.

Most of the time my non-optional accessory (aka powered chair) only adds 25-50% to my journey time. However sometimes it becomes much more obvious how unequal my experience can be.

I recently visited a friend who normally travels to me. It was her birthday and she was having a gathering to celebrate. It took me two and a half hours one way and that was with no problems. The non-accessible route takes one and a half hours. This is a reality for me but not one I feel comfortable subjecting my friends to so I often suggest meeting at easier-to-reach locations so people don’t realise just how much effort I’ve put into seeing them.

One of my friends recently got married and for her hen do it was arranged we would do a Tube treasure hunt. The organisers were great and said that they could design an accessible hunt but that didn’t stop me from breathing a massive sigh of relief when I had to be at work for that bit of the festivities. With so few accessible stations in Central London it would either have turned into an epic exploration of the suburbs or a trip up and down the Jubilee Line.

I have independently been using transport in London since I was 13, and throughout my early and mid twenties I often ended up feeling like Cinderella as I would always try and arrive at my home station before 10pm as I knew that was when the assistance staff shift ended.

Things have dramatically improved over the last few years to the point where there are very few journeys I won’t attempt and I no longer follow a self imposed curfew, but I still avoid subjecting people to coming with me on my journeys.

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Examples of barriers faced by disabled and older people. for example, flight of stairs and gaps

Wheelchair and mobility scooter users are routinely refused access to buses and the Tube; Assistance dog users are illegally charged more by some minicab drivers; Dial-A-Ride still won’t go further than five miles.

Let’s change this, so that Disabled and older people can visit family and friends and live their lives without worrying about how to get around.

You can help make real progress by becoming a Transport for All member or donating today.


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