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!)


  1. I think this is BRILLIANT. How would you feel about me running this map on LLG, (with, of course, all links back to your blog)? I reach over a quarter of a million people each month, and campaigning for disabled rights is something about which I feel very strongly. (My little sister has MS.)

    I am on contact [@] if you are interested.



  2. I live in Boston, USA, and traveled in London last November. I was shocked at how inaccessible the entire city is. I am not a wheelchair user but my partner of 17 years was (he passed away from a heart attack in 2003). First thing that happened to me in London on the Underground was that I was clueless as to the meaning of "Mind the Gap." I walked off the subway (as we call it here) and fell face forward. Half of me was inside the train and half of me was on the platform. A high-pitched alarm sounded. I have no clue if this had anything to do with my fall. A wonderful woman with whom I'd been conversing quickly helped me up. The other fall that happened to me was at Canary Wharf. Stairs appeared out of nowhere! I took a bad tumble. I was dressed "American," that is, sloppy compared to the Londoners who seemed to be rushing everywhere. At any rate, no one paid me any heed. Actually, there are unnecessary steps all over the place on London streets and they come without warning. I have a long history of anorexia nervosa and and falling is scary for me. I fell forward and broke my leg in 1999 on a sidewalk crack not far from my home. About six months later, the town smoothed out the crack...hmm....I am on federal disability and am well aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have come a long way, but even with improved ability to get around, we folks with disabilities are looked down upon and marginalized.

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  4. Hi. Would the Earl's Court Station be accessible when travelling from Heathrow Terminal 1? You mentioned it's only accessible in one direction. Thanks :)

  5. Hi Melfg. Thank you for visiting the blog and commenting. I drew the map some three years ago and the situation has improved (a bit, but not a lot!) since then. The Picadilly Line - which goes to Heathrow - should have step-free access (Category "A") in BOTH directions at Earl's Court. However, if you need step-free access to change onto either District line eastbound towards Paddington or Upminster, westbound towards Kensington (Olympia), Wimbledon or Hammersmith, you will need to book a manual ramp. I hope that helps. :-)

  6. Thank you! I'm from Australia, so it's all very confusing to me. I appreciate your reply :)