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

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

Loneliness of Our Elderly – Major Public Health Challenge

Britain faces a “Major Public Health Challenge” caused by the impact of long-term loneliness on elderly people, two charities have warned.

Linked to dementia, depression and high blood pressure, chronic loneliness threatens the health of one in 10 older people.

With numbers set to surge 50 per cent to 1.5 million by 2028, AgeUK and the Campaign to End Loneliness say health professionals and local authorities must take urgent action.

Lonely man sitting on a bench

Caroline Abrahams, director of AgeUK, said: “Loneliness is widespread among older people, leaving millions facing the ups and downs of later life largely alone.

“As the numbers of old people  in our society increases, the problem is set to get worse unless we do more to help older people to avoid and overcome it.

“Mounting evidence shows loneliness has a serious impact on our mental and physical health – which in turn can lead to greater reliance on health and social care services –  making it an issue we can ill afford to ignore.”

Titled “Promising approaches to reducing loneliness and isolation in later life”, the report details the impact of chronic loneliness – feeling lonely all or most of the time – can have on the health of older people.

The research uncovered that one in four (2.9 million) Britons aged 65 and over feel they have no one to go to for help and support. As well as serious implications for mental health, it found that chronic loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, increasing the risk of dementia, high blood pressure and depression.

The report claims that health service funders and commissioners are suffering from a “knowledge gap” as they struggle to meet the challenge of chronic loneliness.

Highlighting figures showing that in 2014 around five million 65-year-olds had never used the internet, the study found that older people have difficulty accessing public transport services due to local transport cuts and high taxi prices.

The report suggests a framework of solutions aimed at improving access to technology and transport. And after finding that having friends and family nearby is important to older people than to younger generations, the report sets out strategies aimed at helping the elderly to be better socially connected.

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “Although facing tough budget choices local authorities want to know what can be done to tackle loneliness.

“We are offering this framework to those 51 per cent [of councils] who have promised to tackle the issue in their health and wellbeing board strategies.

With this they can put into place a comprehensive network of community to prevent and alleviate isolation and loneliness.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this “framework of solutions” could be implemented to start a turnaround. The situation at present with reduced funding to county councils and probably more to come, more broken promises from the next administration (whichever) and a situation getting worse with time passing, it’s highly likely not to.”