Rail companies are required by the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments for Disabled people to ensure they can use their services as everybody else. This includes assistance to get on and off the train, to find your way around the station, to buy or collect tickets, assistance to find your seat or to find out where to go.
The assistance that is provided has to be effective and provided in a way that respects your dignity and independence. The fact that you need assistance should not always mean that you can be delayed, or your journey should take longer.
All rail companies must have a system that allows you to book assistance. This system needs to be easy to use and free. The system also needs to be reasonable; for example, if you need to book assistance in advance, the amount of notice you need to give should be quite short. A company must provide assistance if you have booked it.
In many circumstances it would also be reasonable to expect assistance to be provided for people who did not book it, especially if there is station staff who can do it. Whether it is reasonable or not will depend on staffing levels, physical accessibility of the station and other factors, for example a busy station with a lot of Disabled passengers should provide assistance without you needing to book because they know there will be Disabled people travelling every day.
If the station is so inaccessible that you won’t be able to board the train even with assistance, the reasonable adjustments duty may mean that the rail company should help you to get to the nearest accessible station where you can be assisted. The fact that you need assistance should not mean you are automatically delayed or have less choice of when to travel.
Complaining and more…
If you face any of these challenges when travelling by train, you can make a complaint to prevent the same situation from happening again. Your complaint could potentially lead to changes that will help many other Disabled people. In many cases the company will be in breach of the Equality Act and you will be able to take them to court.
It is always worth making a complaint regardless of whether you are thinking of taking legal action or not. Good companies that care about their customers monitor complaints and use them to make improvements.
Thanks to the Disability Justice Project for the information for this post.
Find out more about what you can do if you have problems on a rail journey