Physically disabled people – whether those who were born disabled or those who suffered an injury or accident later in life – can find themselves greatly restricted when it comes to travelling from place to place. Simple tasks most people take for granted – like boarding a bus or taxi, or driving a car – can be an arduous activity that sadly can leave many disabled people stranded, unable to travel as freely as their able-bodied peers. Yet there are an increasing number of ways and means that help disabled people travel freely and easily, whether by public transport or private vehicle.
The Equality Act 2010, passed by the UK government, ensures that transport must be accessible to all users regardless of physical disability. This was an important step in making sure that disabled people in the UK had open and fair access to all kinds of vehicles, including buses, coaches, trains and taxis. In fact, almost all buses brought into service after the year 2000 have been required by law to incorporate numerous features designed for aiding disabled passengers, including handrails, priority seating, low floor entry doors and space for wheelchairs.
Drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles have their own requirements under the Equality Act. Operators of certain designated vehicles – those that are wheelchair accessible – are now required under law to carry disabled passengers, either in a wheelchair or seated in a passenger seat, and to provide assistance when entering and exiting the vehicle. There is now a growing range of wheelchair-accessible taxis available from dealers like Cab Direct to meet this growing market – many disabled people rely absolutely on the fast, direct and personal service provided by taxi drivers.
Of course, many disabled people choose to drive their own cars and to this end, a wide range of aids and assists have been developed to make sure that those with disabilities can operate their own vehicles in safety and comfort, giving them a level of freedom almost unobtainable otherwise. For example, some specially adapted cars make it easier to transfer from a wheelchair into the driver’s seat, while more advanced adaptations make it possible to drive directly while seated in the wheelchair.
Drivers who lack the use of their legs can, rather than using foot pedals, use special controls fitted to the steering wheel. Usually combined with an automatic gearbox for simplicity, these controls range from a simple lever for acceleration to an electronic throttle that can be operated through a steering wheel-mounted ring. Though these additional controls require extra training to use, it’s a small price to pay for the freedom and versatility of being able to drive a private car.