The last barrier to scooter users in London came down in March when Thames Clippers officially ended its ‘No mobility scooters’ policy. The riverboat service’s decision to welcome scooters brings it in line with rail, Tube and bus services in London.
Transport for All held a celebratory Equality Cruise with twelve older and disabled members, popping open some bubbly as they took to the water. The group, including wheelchair users, older people, visually impaired people, and people with a learning difficulty, travelled by bus and Tube from Brixton to the North Greenwich riverboat pier, and cruised to Waterloo.
Sandra and Gwynneth, both scooter users, were among those welcomed on board and given Mobility Aid Cards, which Thames Clippers have introduced for scooter users wishing to use the service. Previously, the company accepted wheelchairs and buggies of any size but had a blanket ban on scooters. Carolyn Lucas, a scooter user who uses Clippers to get to work, led TfA’s work on scooter access to Clippers and was the first to receive a Mobility Aid Card.
You can see which scooters are accepted here: http://www.transportforall.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Mobility-Aid-Recognition-Scheme2014.pdf
Their policy came to light when TfA member Laura Hamilton was refused access in her small scooter as she returned from watching the Paralympic Games in 2012 and Transport for All took up her complaint. In February, Jayne from Richmond wrote a powerful blog about her experience of being refused access to Thames Clippers in her scooter.
London buses, Tubes and trains all accept scooter users on board, although there is still some variance among operators as to what size of scooters they will allow on.
Thames Clippers are equipped with audio visual information and all but the Star, Storm and Sky Clippers have accessible toilets. All but three of their piers are stepfree: Wandsworth Riverside Quarter, Putney and Cadogan piers are not currently but Thames Clippers say they plan to upgrade these piers ‘soon’ However, the gradient of the ramps to piers (especially at London Bridge) varies considerably depending on the tide, so if you have difficulty with steep slopes, you’re advised to call Thames Clippers to find the best time to travel.
Freedom Pass holders and their carers get 50% off fares and season tickets on all services except the River Bus Express. Carers travel free on the River Bus Express but need to book in advance.
The decision to welcome on scooters is a step forward for disabled people’s equality. The arbitrary ban on scooter users regardless of size made no sense, and Transport for All welcomes Thames Clipper’s decision to open up access to disabled people. A riverboat cruise is a fantastic day out, and it’s brilliant that scooter users will now be able to join their families out on the river.
Sandra Hinds rode her scooter onto the boat for the first time. She said:
“It was an adventure for me, not having been out on public transport for 3 years! It was a scary moment getting out there, but I said, ‘I can do this’. Everyone was so helpful. Thames Clippers staff were fabulous, they were great. I’d urge other scooter users to give it a try!”