Transport needs to be more inclusive for young wheelchair users

Three quarters of wheelchair users and their families and carers can’t travel as independently as they would like to and two in three do not feel confident enough to use public transport, according to a report released today by disabled children’s charity Whizz-Kidz.

Despite significant investment in accessibility improvements in recent years, Whizz-Kidz’s Get on Board report finds that three quarters of those surveyed experienced problems while travelling which mean they can’t travel as independently as they would like to.

Barriers in accessing public transport ranged from lack of accessible transport near where respondents live (67%), to being deterred by the attitude of staff (57%) or other passengers (61%).

“This is an issue which significantly impacts on the lives of many young wheelchair users. Because many can’t travel and use transport easily, they are being excluded from employment opportunities. They can find it harder to access health and education services and it’s not as easy for them to meet up with friends or family,” Whizz-Kidz CEO Ruth Owen OBE said.

“When people face these barriers to travel, it not only reduces their opportunities, it can change their aspirations. Our report makes it clear that despite substantial improvements made by a number of transport operators, who are leading the way in terms of disabled travel, we still have some way to go before travel and transport options are truly inclusive for young wheelchair users.

“We’re calling for the wider community, Government and other transport providers to Get on Board and make travel more inclusive. While accessibility has improved, this report highlights that change has not yet fully translated into equality and independence in young wheelchair users’ everyday lives.

“Improving accessibility is a shared responsibility which requires joined-up working with third parties and continued investment from Government to ensure that the network and infrastructure is in place to support operators in the delivery of their services.” Ruth Owen said.

  • The Whizz-Kidz campaign is calling for: Improvements to infrastructure, information and facilities so that the network is more accessible for wheelchair users.
  • The general public to respect young wheelchair users’ right to travel so that they do not feel scared to travel alone.
  • Regular and meaningful disability awareness training so that staff working in transport have a better understanding of the needs of young wheelchair users, which will support them to best assist young disabled travellers.
  •  Involvement of young disabled people in the planning, auditing and design of services and policies so that their voices are heard at all levels.
  • Representation of young wheelchair users in travel marketing materials so that people can see what young wheelchair users can do, not what they can’t!

Whizz Kidz logoTo spearhead change, Whizz-Kidz recently formed a national Accessible Travel Alliance – an industry leading group made up of forward-thinking travel operators, to make a real and lasting difference to disabled people’s experience of travel. Alliance partners who have signed up to the Get on Board campaign include Gatwick, Heathrow, National Express, OmniServ, Stagecoach and Transport for London.

“Our Alliance partners are setting the pace for the transport industry and are we’re excited to be collaborating with them on a number of accessible transport projects. Whizz-Kidz is providing them with tailored disability awareness training and input from our young wheelchair users who can’t wait to get stuck in and work together to drive positive change. We’re now challenging other transport and travel companies to follow the example of our Alliance partners,” Ruth Owen said.

About the report
The Whizz-Kidz Get on Board report includes survey results from 128 wheelchair users and their families and carers between June and September 2015. The survey looked at independent travel, trains, buses, taxis, planes, underground, metro, tram and light rail. Factors explored included the mode and frequency of transport most used. Insights were also drawn from focus groups, interviews and advice from young disabled people and their parents who are part of the Whizz-Kidz network.

About Whizz-Kidz

  • Whizz-Kidz is a national charity for disabled children and young people.
  • As well as supporting young disabled people to access the right mobility equipment to fit their young lives, the charity also delivers wheelchair skills-training, work placements, residential camps and youth clubs to support a full and active childhood, and a bright future.
  • The charity’s young people’s services in England are funded by The Big Lottery through a £5.3m grant to support Whizz-Kidz to provide 10,000 new opportunities to young disabled people over three years.
  •  Whizz-Kidz has offered over 25,000 opportunities to young disabled people throughout the UK since 1990

You can get involved and pledge your support for more inclusive travel by visiting
www.whizz-kidz.org.uk/getonboard.

“Let us hope more and more companies will  ‘take on board’ the need for inclusive travel”

Two-thirds of low income workers with disabilities struggle to afford to heat their homes

New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that over two-thirds (67%) of people with disabilities on low incomes are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work.

Worryingly, of those who are struggling, over half (51%) have done so for more than a year.

The research reveals that nearly two-fifths (37%) of all low income workers with disabilities have missed one or more payment to their energy supplier in the last twelve months. Over a quarter (29%) are struggling with other essential bills, with Council Tax topping the list of payments they’re behind on (32%).

As the weather turns colder, the research also uncovers how low income workers with disabilities will cope with these costs through the winter. Of those worried about their energy costs, a huge 72% feel they will have to cut back on or not use their heating, whilst over half (53%) said they would resort to cutting back on food. A third (33%) anticipate that the stress of energy bills will exacerbate their health problems.

There are 2.3 million households living in fuel poverty in England alone*, and it is estimated that nearly half of these are in work.** As debate continues around proposed cuts to the tax credits system, there is growing concern that household finances could be even harder hit from next year.

Turn2us’ research also suggests a lack of awareness of the help that could be available to disabled people on low incomes, or potential reluctance to access it. Of those who are struggling to pay their energy costs, only 7% have turned to an advice organisation for help. Almost three-quarters (72%) have not checked their eligibility for welfare benefits in the last twelve months, whilst 76% are unaware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts set up to help certain customers.

Heating BillsThis winter, Turn2us is running its No Cold Homes campaign specifically to help more people who are unable to afford to heat their homes. The charity is encouraging anyone in financial hardship to use its free online service to see if they are eligible for welfare benefits, charitable grants and other support – additional income which could help them manage their energy costs over the colder months.

Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us said: “Our research paints a startling picture, revealing the extent to which families are struggling to heat their homes, even though they’re in work. It is clear that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and other help available to people on low incomes to help them manage their energy costs.

We know that this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, and alongside working households, many others will suffer this winter. We believe that no one should have to live in a cold home. Through our campaign, we urge anyone struggling to check what support could be available.”

The No Cold Homes campaign runs from 18 November to 16 December 2015. As part of the campaign, Turn2us is hosting an online celebrity clothes auction (30 November – 9 December) to raise awareness of people’s struggles to heat their homes, and funds to help more people affected.

For more information, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes.

“It seems this issue has become a seasonal fixture”