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Getting out and about

Going out shopping, and visiting family and friends are important activities for everyone. If you are finding it harder to drive or use public transport because of impaired mobility, find out about adapting your car or using local accessible transport services.

Although mobility problems make it harder to get around, transport has been getting more accessible for disabled and elderly people over the years. Find out how you can get help:

If you have mobility problems and you need a car or similar powered vehicle to get around, you may need help with covering the costs. You may be able to get help through:

Using public transport with a disability

All public transport vehicles have to be "accessible" to avoid causing difficulty for disabled passengers. Public transport vehicles also have to accept guide dogs or assistance dogs.

However, if you are using public transport, it’s worth contacting the transport operator before you travel to make sure they are able to offer the assistance you require. By law, all public transport buses will have to meet specific disability standards by 2017.

Buses and trains will usually have priority seating for older people and people with disabilities. They will also usually have space and wide doors for wheelchairs. Some buses, trains and trams are fitted with automatic ramps, but many still require assistance or ramps to be manually fitted by station staff or the driver.

The London Underground is being upgraded to improve step-free access, but large parts will remain largely inaccessible to people with mobility problems for the foreseeable future. Staff at Underground stations are trained to help assist people move around the underground system – for example, by helping you avoid escalators and calling ahead to arrange for assistance at your destination.

Both the Docklands Light Railway and London trams are entirely step-free.

Discounts on public transport for older people and disabled people

Older people and people with disabilities can travel free on local buses anywhere in England between 9.30am and 11pm Monday to Friday, and at any time during the weekend and on bank holidays. Some authorities offer free travel for longer periods, and some allow a companion to travel with the pass holder for free.

You may have to apply through your local authority, but in most areas you can apply online for an older person’s bus pass or for a disabled person’s bus pass. You can get a bus pass that allows you to travel for free at any time of day, and in London a Freedom Pass will let you travel for free on most forms of public transport.  Some services, such as London’s trams, will let wheelchair users travel for free without a pass.

If you regularly travel by train, it’s probably worth getting a Disabled Person’s Railcard, giving you a third off the price of rail tickets. Check the eligibility criteria to see if you are eligible for a Disabled Railcard. Children aged five to 16 with disabilities are eligible for a Disabled Person's Railcard, allowing an adult to travel with them for a third of the cost of an adult fare, while the child pays the normal child fare.

Taxi and private hire companies can provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles if you let them know when you book a vehicle. Some councils also offer taxi voucher schemes for those who may find it difficult to use public transport, because they are frail or disabled.

NHS help with travel and transport costs

You may need help getting to and from hospital appointments, and with transport costs if you’re on a low income. Help with travel costs can include hospital transport.

Hospital travel scheme

If you pay to travel to a hospital or other NHS premises for NHS-funded treatment or diagnostic tests, you may be able to claim a refund through a scheme to help with travel costs to hospital for patients who are on certain benefits, including:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit guarantee credit

Patients are also eligible if their income is £15,276 or less and they get Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit with the disability element or severe disability element.

Under this Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, you can claim at the NHS hospital or clinic at the time of the appointment and payment will be made in cash.

NHS low income support scheme

If a patient doesn't receive any of the above benefits, they may still be able to get help if they're on a low income, through the NHS Low Income Scheme. A claim for travel costs can be made on form HC1. This is available from your local Jobcentre Plus office or from the hospital.

A carer’s travel costs can also be covered by this scheme if a doctor confirms that the person you look after needs someone to travel with them

Community transport schemes

Vehicle road tax exemption and reduction

If you’re disabled or have a serious long-term condition, you may be exempt from vehicle excise duty (known as road tax or car tax). It’s worth noting that mobility scooters and "class 3" powered wheelchairs (limited to 8mph or 4mph on pavements) are exempt from vehicle excise duty.

You’ll qualify for tax exemption if you’re eligible for the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or War Pensioner's Mobility Supplement.

The vehicle must be registered in your name and can be only be used for your benefit. You can nominate someone else to drive for you, but they cannot use the vehicle for their own personal needs.

You apply for exemption from road tax when you apply for your road tax online, or by phone or at a post office.

If you get PIP at the standard mobility rate, you will be eligible for a reduction in road tax. You will have to apply directly to the DVLA for a road tax reduction.

Blue Badge disabled parking scheme

If you have severe mobility problems that make using public transport difficult, you may be able to get a "Blue Badge" parking permit for your car. This lets you park closer to places you wish to visit, such as in marked disabled parking bays.

You may also be able to:

  • park for free within certain time limits in some places 
  • park on single and double yellow lines 
  • stay longer in on-street time-limited parking bays

Blue Badge schemes are run by councils, and most will let you apply for a Blue Badge online. Central London is exempt from the national Blue Badge regulations and the central London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Camden, Westminster and City of London do not fully operate the Blue Badge scheme.

However, if you are exempt from road tax or have a Blue Badge permit, you may be able to get an exemption from paying the central London congestion charge.

Motability scheme

The Motability scheme allows some disabled people getting DLA, PIP or War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement to obtain a car, powered wheelchair or scooter.

The scheme uses some or all of your mobility benefit payments to cover the cost of "contract hire" or "hire purchase" of an appropriate vehicle. You can also pay an extra amount of money if you want a more expensive vehicle.

With hire purchase, the price of the car will be agreed directly with the Motability dealer, and you will own the vehicle outright at the end of the agreement.

With contract hire, you won’t own a vehicle, but you will get a new car every three years, full insurance for the driver and passengers, servicing, maintenance and repairs, vehicle excise duty, replacement tyres and breakdown cover.

Adaptations to the car can be made if needed, although there may be an extra charge for some adaptations. Under the Motability scheme, cars can also be adapted for people in wheelchairs.

If you don't need or want a car, you can transfer your allowance to lease a scooter or powered wheelchair.

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