Apps That Make Traveling Easier for Disabled People
Here in the UK, smartphone apps have enabled people to do pretty much anything from wherever they are. The phase “there’s an app for that” really does seem to be true.
As a wheelchair user I use different apps to make my life easier when I’m out and about. Some of these apps are aimed at the disabled user, whereas others are for everyone. However, they all help me get from A to B with the least amount of difficulty.
As a driver I’m always looking out for apps which make my parking experience quicker and easier.
I’m sure that as
technology improves further, there will be more apps developed to help with my day to day life.
I struggle to pay at parking machines and only want to park in car parks with accessible bays. There are a number of parking apps aimed at all drivers which do make parking a much less stressful experience. Appyparking is easy to use and enables you to search for on or off-street bays, disabled parking and electric charging posts in the UK. You can also pay for your parking through the app where this is permitted.
A similar app is Parkopedia but this app is worldwide. This app enables you to reserve parking, gives real time parking availability and enables you to pay through the app. Currently, neither app enables me to book a disabled parking space.
As well as improving parking, apps have also enabled disabled people to refuel their vehicles a lot more easily. I am unable to refuel my vehicle independently and so I need someone else to do it for me. Unfortunately, not all petrol stations have enough staff to help, and so I use Fuelservice which tells you which nearby stations have assistants available who will refuel your car. You can check before you leave your house that there will be someone to help.
This app also lets the petrol station know what time you are coming and your number plate, so they are generally waiting for you when you arrive. This app has not solved the problem of paying for fuel, but if you combine it with BPme or Shell App which enable you to pay for your fuel through your phone then the problem of refueling is solved.
When I’m not driving myself, I usually use a combination of public transport and taxis to get around.
I often travel to London by train and as the underground system is mostly inaccessible to wheelchair users, I usually use a taxi to complete the last part of my journey. Before I started using the app Gett, I used to struggle hailing a taxi on the street. With a wheelchair and an assistance dog I was not the most popular customer and taxis would often just drive straight past.
With Gett, this is no longer a problem as once you have hailed the taxi on the app they come directly to where you are. You are provided with the name of the driver and the registration of their vehicle so it makes it virtually impossible for them not to pick you up. Gett also stops you having to carry cash as you can link the app to an account making payment hassle free.
I have only used Gett in London where the fleet is 100 percent accessible for disabled people, but if you use it where the fleet is mixed then you can specify that you need a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
If I am in a city where Uber operates, then I will use their app to book a mini-cab. As my wheelchair is collapsible, I select uberASSIST on the app which is for passengers who don’t need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, but require additional assistance on their journey. However, Uber does offer uberACCESS vehicles which enable wheelchair users to travel in their chair.
In my hometown, I use local buses quite a lot as my nearest bus stop is just around the corner and I know roughly when the buses come. However, when I’m in another city, I don’t have a clue where to catch the bus from or which bus number I need. This problem has been solved by the public transport app Moovit.
All you need to do with this app is put in your location and where you want to go to and it tells you your options for how to get there. Moovit is not just for buses, but also has information on tube and rail as well. If the best option is a bus it even gives you directions to the nearest bus stop, as well as telling you if you need to change and what bus number to get. Moovit works in most UK towns and cities. It could be improved by enabling me to put in that I only want accessible options.
If you are visiting one of the major cities in the world then Citymapper is a really good app for telling you how to get about using all modes of public transport as well as walking, cycling and driving. In the UK the cites which have been mapped are London, Birmingham and Manchester. One of my most common journeys in London is from Liverpool Street train station to Southwark Bridge Road.
If I put this into Citymapper as my journey it gives me all the options on how to get there including tube, bus, taxi, mini-cab, bicycle and walking. If you chose a taxi or mini cab it gives you the estimated time and price for your journey and for walking and cycling it tells you roughly how many calories you would burn.
A great app for telling me which places are accessible is Wheelmap. This map works in a similar way to Wikipedia in that anyone can contribute and you can find an accessibility rating for all kinds of places all over the world. The criteria for marking places is based on a simple traffic light system so green is good and red is somewhere that’s best to avoid.
It’s amazing how apps have really changed the way that I travel as they have given me the information and help I need at the touch of a button. I’m sure that as technology improves further, there will be more apps developed to help with my day to day life, making the world a far more accessible place to live.
Helen Dolphin is an advocate and writer in the UK – She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org