Uber is a great service for disabled people, and it should be the case that Uber Assist only improves this.
However, at present it isn’t.
So what’s the problem?
Uber By Itself Is Great
Now for clarity’s sake, I have been using Uber for a number of years and I think on the whole, it is a great tool.
It has helped me go from a part time freelancer to running a successful business.
I use it all the time and there have been times, when it has got me out of a few tight spots..
There are many advantages, especially when compared to traditional private hire firms.
So why don’t I like Uber Assist?
Assist should be better right?
Well, it should be, but right now it isn’t working right.
What’s Wrong With Uber Assist
The first problem is that drivers are enticed to train for Assist by the offer of improved commission rates.
So, although the rider is not paying extra for a ‘improved’ service, the driver is actually making more money.
In practice, this means that drivers want Assist jobs, which you can understand.
However, the upshot is that drivers can be hostile if they’re not getting Assist rates.
This has happened to me on a number of occasions and it is less than pleasant.
One driver actually forced me to cancel the job and rebook as an Uber Assist job. This meant that I had to pay an extra £4 and it made the rest of the journey hell.
Now as I have said previously, I was using Uber regularly without too many problems before Assist was a thing.
Sure, every so often you got a driver who was less than pleasant but I have to say that Uber have excellent complaint procedures.
Don’t get me wrong the process could have been more straightforward but I just stuck to a script:
“That wheelchair won’t fit…”
“The wheels come off.”
“I’ll show you.”
That was all it took for the most part.
That was it and that worked for (most part) for YEARS
Then Assist has changed it.
Assist has given some drivers license to refuse you.
“Have you booked an Assist? You should have booked an Assist…
Now, technically I should book an Assist.
However, here’s the thing, I just want a Uber as fast as possible. I’m the customer after all, I should be able to choose.
I suspect that I would feel differently if there were logistical reasons why I couldn’t just jump in the first X that comes along.
But, I don’t and that is because I took the time think about it. I took time to think about the dimensions of my chair, how it comes apart and how to explain the process.
What I’m getting at here is by trying to be more inclusive, Uber is becoming exclusive, and some drivers are using it as a stick to beat passengers with.
What’s the answer?
I’m not sure…
However, I know what I want. I want to be able to order an Uber and ride like I have been doing for years, and not be harassed because of something that is of no benefit to me.
It’s the start of 2020 and you are sick of looking at other people’s travel posts on Instagram.
But you are disabled and travelling seems too much of leap into the unknown.
However, many disabled people with all kinds of conditions successfully travel all around the world.
Also you might be surprised how good other countries are !
Getting On A Plane
Fear of flying can be one of the biggest hurdles for many disabled people who want to travel.
However, if you want to go further afield – then flying is the only way to go.
Generally speaking, assistance at the airport and indeed on the plane is among the best (certainly better than UK trains!).
So what do you need to know about flying.
First – you don’t need to book assistance in advance to receive it.
Second – Someone can escort you through the airport to your departure gate. So if you’re worried about finding your way through the airport or the distance involved – don’t be.
Third – Always use the fast lane. Don’t just queue up with the hordes, use the express lane (even with budget airlines).
What about Travel By Trains
Generally speaking, trains are good way for disabled people to travel, whether thats in the UK or abroad.
(Most train services are better in Europe).
If you are travelling in the UK – then good news, we have put together a helpful fact sheet for you (plus – its free).
Check it out here.
Again you can….
This is true in the UK and in Europe (although don’t expect to be guaranteed to catch a service if your there 2 minutes before).
It is really important that you feel confident to exercise your ability to just turn up and travel.
You have the right to do so
Rights only work if you know about them and use them.
If you are travelling on a train in the UK, it can be useful to know where the accessible carriage is – you can find that information on the info sheet.
There have been some recent changes – particularly with in regard to the new Azuma services so it is worth checking.
We do post updates on on Twitter Page – so do have a look.
Where To Go
It goes without saying that if you want to move around while abroad, then developed countries are the way to go.
However, to feel completely in control and empowered – you probably will need some extra tricks up your sleeve.
So… What can help?
Uber is a go to for many would be disabled travellers (or it should be). In many countries and cities now – they have an assist programme and WAVs.
For booking accessible accommodation AirBnB is great because of the search options, including step free access and wide door ways!
In terms of locations – Europe is still number one for many disabled people to travel.
Now you might be thinking that you know Europe and don’t really fancy it.
Europe still has some gems to offer.
A green city with a floating farm.
If you want a good mix of accessibility and green space – Berlin is the way to go. You have it all there – good clubs, fine foods and quirky spaces. YOU CANNOT BEAT BERLIN.
If you want accessibility everywhere – including the beach, then Los Cristianos in Tenerife is the way to go.
If you a wheelchair user – the height of the curbs are to die for.
Plus it is sunny all year round!
Using A Independent Travel Agent
Many disabled people have had problems using major travel companies such as with transfers to and from airports.
This is where independent agents who know the areas that you are travelling to can be a real help.
Consider getting independent advice.
Travelling solo as a disabled person can feel impossible because you can get caught in the trap of thinking, “I need too much help with everything.”
But travelling solo is one of the best experiences that I have ever had. It is one of the first times in my life that I felt like I had some space, freedom and opportunities.
Here’s the thing though – with little thought and imagination – it’s not that hard!
Gaining Assistance at Airports and Train Stations
The big myth in terms of travel inside the UK at train stations and airports is that you need to book in advance – you don’t – you can turn up and travel on the day. Just be prepared that you might have wait.
Where Should Disabled Solo Travellers Go?
From experience, I can say that many parts of Europe are the best places for disabled solo travellers to go. I’m especially fond of some parts of Scandinavia that have great public transport and culture around disability.
Attitude in some countries can be everything. If you go somewhere with negative public attitudes to disability, facilities don’t make up for the fact that people are just rude.
Do some research into places and ask around, but Europe is usually a good bet.
For information on specific cities – see Global Hopper Guides.
Pack Power Packs
If you anything like me, then your phone is your Swiss army knife that you use for everything from navigation to paying for things.
So the one thing that you don’t want to happen is for your battery to die, when you really need it!
Luckily if you have a power bank handy – say in your Day Bag – then you’ve always got a back up.
Look For The M
For disabled people who travel solo, one of the biggest challenges can be finding facilities that suitable.
A handy little trick can be to look for something like a McDonald’s, this is because that sterile blandness that you hate most of the time, can be a life saver.
So if you are stuck for a toilet or somewhere to nip into for a coffee, look for a M.
Airbnb have some great accessibility options built into their website. These include step-free access to the front door and wide door ways.
Airbnb is now a great way to book accessible rooms on the fly.
For Travelling Solo But With A Safety Net
If you want a bit more of a structured travel experience but still want to go solo – check out Seable Holidays.
Seable Holidays offer totally accessible holiday packages for visually impaired and wheelchair users to a number of destinations.
What is perhaps unique about Seable is that they offer the whole package, including tours and activities. It is perhaps the only way that you can guarantee that you enjoy the whole of your trip.
They cannot not control the weather though!
Travelling on a train as a disabled passenger can seem off putting. From worrying about getting the right help to local stations being inaccessible, there can seem like a lot of barriers for the disabled train passengers.
We’re pretty experienced disabled train passengers though, so we have put together some helpful tips and advice for you.
There are 2 types of trains, local and mainline. Local trains are a bit like buses on wheels and have clear spaces for wheelchair users and adaptive buggies.
Mainline trains such as East Coast or Cross Country have specific carriages in both standard and first class. For East Coast, it is F in standard and L in First Class. The same generally applies to Cross Country
Getting Assistance as Disabled Train Passengers
Local Trains –
- At local stations, guards have wheelchair ramps on board and can help wheelchair passengers on and off.
- Always check the accessibility of local stations because some can lack ramps or safe walk ways for visually impaired.
- If a local station is inaccessible – go to a main station and ask them to provide accessible transport to that station.
- There should not be luggage, bikes or people obstructing the accessible spaces, and you can ask a guard to move them.
Mainline Trains –
- Ideally it is better to book assistance in advance, either in the station or by phone on – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx
- However, you have no obligation to pre-book and staff at stations have to do their best to accommodate you.
- If there is reason why a carriage cannot properly accommodate you such as lack of toilet or train fault, then the operate has to move you free of charge.
- In the event that you miss your train and the operator or station staff are to blame, such as not providing assistance, then they are duty bound to provide you with an accessible alternative such as a taxi.
- In the event of rail replacement service (where a bus replaces a train), mobility and visually impaired passengers are entitled to an accessible alternative.
Pro Tip – if you are disabled train passenger in a hurry, and unable to purchase a ticket for a legitimate reason (such as organising assistance), then you can board a train without a ticket. On-board, you can then purchase a ticket a discounted rate.
Pro Tip – if you problems with planning a journey or getting around an unfamiliar location, then you can have some guide you around the station.
Pro Tip – you don’t need a disabled person railcard to get a discount. If you remain in your wheelchair, you can get 34% off as single ticket using the code D34 and 50% off a return using the code D50.
There is a little known thing called ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem”. The problem is niche problem of more generic one – namely that wheelchair user never have a free pair of hands.
Our hands are always in use. Meaning that we struggle to carry, lift or push anything else but our chair. “The Wheelchair Luggage Problem” is just a niche of that.
While everyone else is touting those spacious, yet small, carry on bags – you’re there pushing along thinking, “damn, I wish I could use something like that.”
Well recently I went on a short break to Tenerife to visit a friend. The flight was hand luggage only, which left me considering ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem.”
Now I’m use to carrying a backpack most places. So I figured if I could find a bag that was a backpack, I’d be good! So I search around and found the Cabin Max Metz – I did a full review that you can read here.
The Mertz worked really well but as I said in my review – it doesn’t entirely solve ‘The Wheelchair Luggage Problem.” This is mostly because if you want quickly grab your tablet, book or laptop that isn’t so easy. So I got thinking what else I could take with me to fix this.
Now on most flights – you are also allowed to take a bag that can go under the seat. But that is another bag right? So, we’re back to the ‘Wheelchair Luggage Problem” because I still don’t have a free pair of hands.
Enter Trabasack – my answer to where you stash the tech that you want in flight. Pretty much all products in the Trabasack range can sit securely on your lap while the Mertz is on your back. This leaves your hands free to do what they need to.
So there you have it – the answer to “The Wheelchair Luggage Problem”, combined the Metz with a Trabasack and you are good to go!
Buy The Cabin Max Metz from here.
Airports are a minefield for anybody. The increased security, while entirely necessary, makes getting through on to a plane no mean feat. Airports and wheelchairs? Just adds to the complication.
I’ve been through a few airports, got on a few planes and even done a solo trip or two. So I’ve picked a few helpful hints and tricks over the years. Being the nice guy that I am – I like to share the knowledge that I have.
The first thing in the wheelchair flight survival guide is always to make sure the airline know you are coming. Whatever the airline, whatever type of flight, always make sure that they know you are coming and have a seat booked for you.
Then you need to think about to prepare your chair. If it is going to go in the hold, you need to think about removing anything that could get lost or damaged. I’ve lost cushions and all sorts over the years. Its important to think about what you might need to keep hold of. This might be meds or pieces of assistive tech. Depending on how long your flight is, these things could be really important to you.
On the meds side of things, this is where I think products like Sabi – are so good. They allow you the flexibility to say – “This is what I need right now and this is what I’ll need later.” I really like them because the whole range is useful but stylish to.
Before you travel with your expensive wheelchair, scooter and power chair – give yourself peace of mind – get insurance.
So before you fly with your wheelchair – sit and consider all this stuff. The answers will tell you what know of bag(s) that you need.
I recently did a review of the Cabin Max Mertz and I have to say that I really like it. It means that I can still push my wheelchair myself through the airport. When I reflected on it though – my thought was that I could really do with something else to stash a few essentials into. Then I had a lightbulb moment!
Trabasack is the thing that I need to stash my money, and my essentials and keep them in easy reach.
Top Tips For Check In
There isn’t much to say here really. Mostly staff are really well trained these days. I do have a couple of tips though:
- Lots of airlines now have apps where you can store securely your boarding passes. This means less paper and less stuff to handle because lets face it, us wheelchair users never have a free hand.
- They will need to tag your chair to put it in the hold – do not let them put it on anywhere but the back bar of your chair. Anywhere else and it just gets in the way.
My circulation isn’t generally a problem. But having said that even I feel it a little after a flight of 4 hours plus. Flight socks aren’t sexy. But hey, nobody needs to know your wearing them. Same goes for getting to the toilet. When the queue is a mile deep and the isle is tiny, you may think better of it and wear a discreet catheter.