Thursday, 10 May 2012

To boldly go ... where everyone else has gone before!

Sadly I learnt of it too late to do anything for Blogging Against Disablism Day on May 1st so I'm glad I got a chance to do a little something for Global Accessibility Awareness Day yesterday.

So why did I make the map in my first post? I'm disabled and have built up some knowledge of where I can, and cannot, travel independently in London (on those occasions when I'm well enough to leave the house). This being 2012 I got to wondering what it might be like for friends/fellow wheelchair users who may visit London for the first time. Some might be expecting an accessible journey, particularly on some of our super modern Underground and Overground lines; but some of the system dates back to 1863 and it shows!

Many Transport for London maps, posters, etc. show a wheelchair symbol, indicating that access from the street to the station platform is "step free". However, the vertical step and horizontal gap from the platform to the train can be up to 323mm (12.7 inches) for the step and up to a 253 mm (10 inch) gap, denying wheelchair users the dignity of independent travel.

So, about eight months ago I set about gathering information from various maps, rail station information websites (and actually visiting some platforms with a tape measure) amending a TfL step-free map [see my image below] and, from that, I've drawn up a guide map of lines, stations and accessible toilets - for independent travel by manual wheelchair users. I did this primarily for my own use and amusement but I've been encouraged to share it with other disabled people.

The end result - given my chosen criteria [the horizontal gap between the train and platform is 85mm (3.3 inches) or less and the vertical step is 50mm (2 inches) or less] - surprised me. In particular I noticed that overseas visitors to London might get on at Heathrow Terminals 1,2 & 3 and discover that the only other accessible station on the Piccadilly Line is Heathrow Terminal 4! Of course, if one manages to book at least 24 hours in advance and specifies precisely when you will arrive, you might get lucky and have a staff member turn up to put a ramp in and allow you use some of the other London stations, but there's no guarantee and it's neither convenient nor fosters independence.

Thank you Lisa for your comment above (I'm honoured you've visited here). I questioned myself about whether I should put in those "odd" stations - such as Earls Court - where there may be access on one platform, but not for the other platform and I decided against including it; on the grounds that the station is not really accessible for travel. Invariably when I use a station I need to know that I can travel both to that destination and away from it ... and preferably in either direction.

I wanted it uncluttered but I kept the Piccadilly Line in because I wanted to show the potential danger of getting on at either of the Heathrow stations and then finding that you couldn't get off anywhere else! As for the Metropolitan Line, I believe it has the trains but does not yet have any accessible stations feeding it; when its platform at Kings Cross comes on line I'll add it (but I suspect, like the Piccadilly Line, it might look a bit lonely for sometime to come).

I realise that, for those cool athletic wheelchair users who are capable of doing wheelies (or have a PA with them), my map might look over cautious and restrictive - and it is certainly no substitute for the comprehensive TfL step-free map - but I wanted to draw one that could be quickly easily understood by another disabled person travelling independently by manual wheelchair on London Underground, London Overground and DLR (and also, perhaps, that it would indicate the true state of access in London to those with power to improve transport - BoJo, please note). However, the castors on some powered wheelchairs have a diameter as small as 72mm (2.8 inches) which would reduce the access to even fewer stations than I have indicated.

Oh! and I substituted the somewhat passive looking International Symbol of Access (which TfL sometimes uses) with a more dynamic one, reflecting use by independent wheelchair users.

For anyone with an emerging interest in maps of the London Underground (in particular, the alternative ones), if you don't yet know it, you can't miss the following brilliant resources:'s maps

And, for those with a wicked sense of humour, don't miss these:

Diamond Geezer's blueprint


Diamond Geezer's step-too-far

All comments/criticisms welcome (I think!)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wheelchair user? Welcome to independent travel in London 2012

The title of this blog "Boldly to go" borrows shamelessly from the disability rights slogan ... "To boldly go where everyone else has been before".

Today - May 9th - is Global Accessibil​ity Awareness Day. I have very little knowledge of the digital world (which appears to be the focus for the event) but I thought I would launch something digital ... and on accessibility.

The only event taking place in the UK (as far as I can see) is the following in Wales:

So I'm sharing my very own resource instead, namely, the map I "created" - entirely for my own benefit for travelling round London. Click on the map to enlarge. Notes to follow in my next post.