Top 5 Issues with The London Underground as a Wheelchair User

As every Londoner knows, it’s compulsory to complain about the Tube system. So naturally, I blogged about it:

This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as issues go, to explain every issue with the Tube I’d be writing a novel (but since my editor only has the attention span suitable for a blog post, that’s all you’re getting)

General Inaccessibility

Only a quarter of Tube stations are accessible, a fact stated on the TFL website! I know I’m the #invinciblewomanonwheels but even I am not going to try driving my wheelchair down a set of stairs just to access Camden Town. As my friend Nikki said when I brought the issue, if you put the prospect of only being able to use a quarter of the Tube network to anyone else in London, they’d think you were insane. Yet TFL boasts that very figure on their website like it’s something to applauded. This makes it seem like the disabled community, particularly from my view as a wheelchair user, are expected to “just deal with” inaccessibility.

Uninformed Staff

Ironically, this issue stems from TFL trying to update Tube stations in terms of accessibility by adding lifts. I’ve had issues interchanging at certain stations (*cough* Wembley Park *cough*) because they refuse to put me on a train to my destination (Bond Street) because Bond Street staff say there aren’t lifts at the station, when I know there are, and I have in fact used them! The last time this issue arose, what resulted was a 20-minute “discussion” with the station staff (I argued that there WERE lifts, and they were giving me incorrect information until it was confirmed that were in fact lifts). Welcome to me being stubborn as hell about proving I’m right. At the point of this incident, the Bond Street lifts had only been in for about a month and it turns out the online TFL Journey Planner, which I use to plan all my journeys, had been updated to reflect the new lifts at Bond Street, but the paper maps in the station that staff are given had not. So, TFL, it’s all good upgrading stations to make them accessible, but inform your staff of those upgrades or for pity’s sake it’s 2018 give them updated electronic Tube maps!

Definition of “Accessible”

A stations’ definition of accessible can be a little “interesting” at times. Take my recent experience at Stanmore station, for example, making me (a small, disabled young woman) travel through an unlit car park and then up a road with no path to separate me from the oncoming cars, seems pretty dodgy, right? Yet that’s exactly what I had to do. Now I know my wheelchair is seen as a road worthy vehicle but if it comes down to it and it’s me vs car, the car wins every single time. I’m glad I had someone with me leaving that station because I don’t think I’d have been comfortable leaving alone, and the most irritating thing? When I was discussing how we were supposed to get out of the car park with the person I was with, he suggested the road, I was arguing that there MUST be a safer way out and some strange woman says, “oh yeah that’s your way out” and smiles, again like I’m just to supposed to deal with access like this. You don’t think me having to walk through an unlit car park is a problem, no problem at all no?

Communication Between Stations

So so so  many times I’ve had staff at the station I’m leaving from “ring ahead” to my destination station to tell them an MIP (Mobility Impaired Person, i.e. yours truly) will be en route to their station so they can expect me,  and then I get to my destination to be told “oh no one told us you were coming .  It transpires the staff at the station I was leaving told the line manager, who then told no one (even if they’re supposed to pass the message on to the destination station) So TFL, here’s a revolutionary idea that will save everyone hassle, how about we inform the people that are going to be dealing with me that I’m going to be on a train and skip the line manager middle man I never see? And yes, I know protocol and red tape and stuff, but things don’t seem to be being done the way they’re supposed to anyway so what difference does it really make?

Refusing my accommodations

Yeah, you heard me right, station staff have literally refused to give me what I need to be able to safely board a train. When I’m asking for accommodations I’m not asking to be carried to the train on a golden throne (although if you want to I’m not complaining) all I’m asking for is a ramp, and yet some staff (I emphasise SOME staff, shout out to those who actually give me the accommodations I ask for) however, certain stations (e.g. Wembley Park) refuse to give me the ramp. For example, I’ll ask for the ramp to get on the Jubilee line because my front wheels have previously gotten stuck in the gap between train and platform and my request will be met with “you don’t need that you’ll be fine”, at which point my front wheels precede to get stuck as predicted as the staff member gets my “I told ya” face. Now I realise some people will probably see me as the naïve, young disabled girl, but believe me, I’m 100% aware of what my chair can and cannot do, and likelihood is, if I’m requesting to do something a certain way, I’ve tried and failed with the usual method and don’t want to have the issue again. And only fools make the same mistake twice, right? This gal, not a fool!

Feel free to add your own Tube issues on the comments of this post, and I guess the last thing I have to say is, while you’ll never make me leave this brilliant city, there are so many ways its’ Tube network needs to be better for disabled Londoners (or visitors).

Stay Invincible!

Em (InvincibleWomanOnWheels)


  1. I have thought about this lots and I honestly don’t understand how a a city like London that consider itself so “diverse” and “forward thinking” or whatever is having major issues like this! Honestly hope this gets sorted soon!


  2. Pingback: Yet More Issues with the London Tube System | Invincible Woman on Wheels

  3. Pingback: HMV Oxford Street access review | Invincible Woman on Wheels

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