Learning disabilities: out and about
Getting out and about, socialising with friends and family and participating in a wide range of activities can be really helpful for anyone. By being socially active and spending time with people, you may stop yourself from experiencing the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can happen to people with learning disabilities.
Travelling with a learning disability may require careful and creative problem solving. Lack of understanding is just one of the barriers we face, so this guide has been designed to provide clear direction for before, after and during travel to ensure a trouble-free trip.
As facilities and services vary widely, it is worth doing some research before you decide which airline to use. Here are a few pointers to bear in mind when travelling by air.
- On booking your flight, remember to notify the airline if you require special assistance.
- If you prefer an aisle seat, remember to book it in advance to make life easier.
- At least 48 hours before your flight departs, make sure you contact the airline to confirm your request for special assistance, should you need it.
- At flight check-in, be sure to tell the ticket agent that you requested special assistance. In doing this, you will receive extra help at security, miss long queues (there have to be some perks!) and will receive assistance at the gate.
Rail travel is now one of the most accessible means of transport for anyone with a disability. With the right information, planning and know-how, travelling by train can be hassle free.
To start off, it is useful to identify the barriers that might affect your journey and then consider if you require passenger assistance. If you do, you should book at least 24 hours prior to your journey.
If you are unsure which train company you need, take a look at the National Rail’s list of Stations and Destinations and then visit the National Rail Service page for Information for disabled passengers and passenger assistance. Alternatively, you can call National Rail Enquiries on 0345 748 4950.
To book passenger assistance, simply navigate to the Support and Information section on the contact page of the train company you have selected. Once there, scroll down to Assisted Travel to retrieve the relevant contact details. When you're on the phone to them, be sure to outline your requirements clearly.
If you would rather contact the rail company online, visit the Disabled Persons Railcard website and look for the "Book Assistance for Future Journey" button on the page.
The bus business is experiencing a boom these days, perhaps due to attractive fares and schedules. You may be eligible for a free bus pass—check with your local council to find out. For further details on this scheme, visit the GOV.UK site and go to the section on Transport if you're disabled, where you'll find details on cars, buses and coaches.
How do I apply for a bus pass? Simply contact your local council to find out who issues disabled bus passes. To apply for a disabled person's bus pass you first need to identify the appropriate local authority. Go to the Directgov site and follow the steps on how to apply for a disabled person's bus pass. This service is only available in England.
Getting on and off. Bus companies are legally obliged to make sure disabled people can get on and off buses in safety and travel in reasonable comfort. Visit Citizens Advice to find out the Rights of disabled passengers using buses and coaches.
In the very near future, all public transport buses will have to meet specific disability standards set by the government. As we wait patiently for this special day, we will have to make do with the current provisions.
Using public transport in London
Getting around in London by car is one thing, but using public transport is another. The good news is that there are many resources to help you tame the Tube and beat the buses.
Transport for London
In addition to all of the traditional services offered through the Transport for London (TfL) website, there is an entire section devoted to transport accessibility. For instance, did you know you could request staff assistance at all Tube, TfL Rail, Overground stations, boats, the Emirates Air Line and Victoria Coach Stations? You can get assistance from drivers on trams and buses (on DLR trains, look for a Passenger Service Agent).
TfL also offers a travel support card that you can download and use in order to let people know what assistance you may need. And for information on fares, visit the 60+ London Oyster Card section of the TfL website.
Transport for All
Transport for All (TfA) is an organisation that is working to make it just as easy for you to travel on public transport as it is for anyone else. Formerly Dial-A-Ride and Taxicard users (DaRT), TfA is a great place to find out how public transport is becoming more accessible to everyone, and it covers:
- The Emirate Airline (Cable Car)
TfA also has information on getting travel training or mentoring and tracking down items that have been lost on London's transport system.
In terms of door to door services, TfA can help you research the following:
- Capital Call
- Community transport
- Patient transport
- Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle
The organisation can also help you explore the following concessionary services:
- Blue Badge
- Freedom Pass
- Disabled and Older Persons Railcard
- National Express Coachcard
- 60+ Oystercard
To find out specifically about Freedom Passes, visit the London Councils Freedom Pass website.
Entertainment and cultural activities
If you love the arts, whether it's dance, visual arts, film or theatre, we've got something for you. If you're interested in culturally Jewish arts, check out our Directory of Jewish community and cultural centres throughout the UK.
If you're more interested in arts programmes specifically designed for people with learning disabilities, then we hope you'll find what you're looking for in our roundup of learning disability arts organisations around the UK.
Mind the Gap is a Bradford based theatre company, providing a range of performance, training and development activities for learning disabled actors.
The Misfits Theatre Company is a Bristol based theatre and social group led by people with learning difficulties.
Prism Arts is an arts organisation working to promote and support disabled people's access to creative arts activities in Cumbria.
Life you choose is a Derbyshire based arts and multimedia group for people with learning difficulties.
The Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company is a Gateshead based learning disabled theatre company involved in a range of work from touring shows to forum theatre and educational videos.
About Face Theatre Company is a Herefordshire based professional theatre company for people with learning disabilities.
Wicked Fish Theatre Company is an independent community based ensemble theatre company of performers with learning difficulties.
Access all Areas is an East London theatre company for adults with learning disabilities.
Act Too provides a range of arts-based services for learning disabled people in the South London area.
Action Space is a London based visual arts organisation for young people and adults with learning disabilities.
Advocreate is a London based theatre workshop and community filmmaking service for adults with learning disabilities and their carers.
Corali Dance Company is a professional learning disabled touring performance group that works with non-disabled artists to create performance work that challenges people's perceptions of disability.
Oily Cart is a multi-sensory, interactive theatre company that includes performers with learning disabilities.
Venture Arts is a visual arts charity that provides arts workshops for learning disabled people.
The Twisting Ducks Theatre Company is a theatre company that makes entertaining, accessible and informative drama about issues faced by people with learning disabilities.
No Limits Theatre Company is a professional touring company of actors with learning disabilities.
Seven Stars Theatre Company is a learning disabled touring theatre company.
Lung Ha’s Theatre Company is a professional theatre company that provides opportunities for adults with learning disabilities to become actively involved in the performing arts.
JUMPcuts is a training and production charity, producing award winning creative digital media with and for people with learning disabilities.
Starburst Arts is a visual and performing arts initiative in West Sussex for people with learning difficulties.
Carousel is a Brighton based organisation that puts learning disabled people in control of their art; in film, music, performance and production.
The Rockets is a group of artists with learning disabilities who work alongside art students from the University of Brighton to make artwork at the Phoenix Arts Association.
Open Theatre Company promotes training, research and development in community theatre and learning disability theatre for people in Coventry and Birmingham.
Side By Side Theatre Company is a Warwick based theatre company that gives adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to develop their performing talents.
Sports and leisure
If you like participating in sport, there are plenty of sports programmes and activities to choose from. You can enjoy sport just for fun or you can get involved in competitive sports with other learning disabled people. Mencap Sport has a wealth of information and resources to help keep you fit and active. To find out more, check out the Mencap Sport section on the Mencap website.
If you prefer to join a local gym, fitness or leisure centre, take your time finding the best place for you. Here are our tips for ensuring you make the right choice.
- Write a list of the exercises and activities you want to do.
- Research places that offer the activities you want.
- Find out how much it costs, compare prices and make sure it's value for money.
- Go and visit the venue, check out the facilities, meet the teachers and make sure they meet your needs.
- If you're going to take out a membership, make sure you understand how long it's for and what happens if you want to cancel.