Mind the Gap: It's Still Too Hard to Get Around London If You Are Disabled

10/05/2016 12:17 | Updated 10 May 2016

Transport is a massive issue for disabled people.

As my colleague Rosemary can testify every day is like a tube strike when you are disabled. Only a quarter of London Underground stations are wheelchair accessible.

If she used public transport to commute it would take three buses and take two hours each way.

Trying to get on a bus as a wheelchair user in rush hour is often an impossible task.

Kelly, 27, is a Scope supporter and entrepreneur from Stourbridge. She relies on taxis when in London, but a lot of the time one turns up with too many chairs to actually get in a wheelchair in despite what's she's been told on the phone.

Research by the Department for Transport shows that two in three wheelchair users say they have been overcharged for a taxi or private hire vehicle because of their wheelchair.

Recently a House of Lords committee investigation into the Equality Act called for action to stop overcharging and improve the service taxis and private hire vehicles provide.

Now Uber have stepped into the market by launching a fleet of wheelchair accessible vehicles in London.

An expansion of choice

This move by Uber represents an expansion of choice for disabled people in London - choice that other commuters and passengers already have.

There are of course lots of other providers - particularly the word-famous London black taxis cabs - whose vehicles are accessible.

With the apps Gett and Hailo both offering wheelchair accessible services in London this will increase competition and options available to disabled people.

An accessible transport system is vital. It supports disabled people to do everyday things like get to work, get to hospital, go shopping or visit family and friends.

Transport costs count

All this counts because life costs more if you are disabled. Scope research shows that these costs add up to on average of £550 a month.

This led to the formation of the the Extra Costs Commission - a year-long independent enquiry in to disabled people's extra costs and how markets can help to bring them down.

The Commission's findings inspired UberAssist, where specially trained drivers provide additional assistance for disabled people. Now they've gone a step further, and we hope that other companies across the country follow suit.

Increased competition should give disabled people a better service across the board, more choice and increased value for money.

Greater regulation

But we know from the Commission's findings that improving markets alone won't provide disabled people with a transport network that reflects their needs.

There are also times when government needs to step in. The Commission backed the Law Commission's call for regulation to increase the number of accessible vehicles for hire on our streets and take action when drivers refuse to pick up disabled passengers.

We are moving in the right direction, but we haven't arrived yet.