Travelling with a disability is never an easy task. That’s why public transports should be on the forefront of helping out. Unfortunately it seems this is not always the case.
Southern Rail’s cuts
Southern Railway train
This week we got very concerned upon hearing how train companies in the UK are scrapping help for disable people; especially Southern Rail, that is quietly cancelling ‘guaranteed assistance’ from 33 stations.
Transport for All, which campaigns on behalf of disabled passengers, said the company have scrapped their ‘turn up and go’ access at dozens of stations.
Before the change was announced, train maps specified the stations where those needing assistance could turn up and travel.
Now, the maps on the trains say that if such passengers do not book help in advance, ‘there might be a significant delay to your journey’.
A spokesman for Transport For All said: ‘Whether it’s assistance failing to turn up, inaccessible platforms or a lack of accessible facilities on trains, what is clear is that our railways are failing disabled and older passengers.
‘Now, to make matters worse Southern Rail have announced that they are withdrawing turn up and go assistance from 33 stations across their network.
‘This is clearly a huge backwards step for accessibility.’
On the other hand, a Southern spokesman said: ‘Passengers do not have to book assistance before travelling with us.
‘We only recommend this to ensure we have staff prepared with ramps or that alternative travel is in place if a station is not accessible. Our priority is to have an on-board supervisor on services which previously had a conductor.’
‘In the exceptional circumstances when this is not possible, we have a clear, robust process to ensure passengers with accessibility requirements are assisted to complete their journeys.’
Travelling with a Guide Dog on Public Transport
After hearing about these cuts by major Railways companies we scanned the web where we found some other very interesting first person accounts about difficulties of travelling on public transport, in this case we report an informative account on the difficulties of travelling with a guide dog from Patrick Robert, from Lambeth, who is blind and uses his guide dog Rufus to travel around London.
Travelling in London can be a real challenge for people with a visual impairment. Back in 2009 I registered as severely visually impaired (Blind). Since then I have had to adapt myself to the transport network and change my habits. Every time I travel around I’ve got the support from Rufus my guide dog.
This change in my life was not always easy. As a result I joined Transport for All in order to get advice and support when using the different public transport modes. “Lack of communications is one of the biggest challenges I face.
I often struggle on buses: when you’re speaking to a bus driver they don’t always verbally respond, but probably do a sign which I can’t see. I have had also some bad experience with bus drivers not stopping at the bus stop but a few meters away. Obviously if a bus driver does not stop in front of me, it makes it impossible for me to discuss with them and check the bus number.
On the Tube I had a lot of issues following the closure of ticket offices, making it harder for me to find staff to assist me. I need staff in order to travel safely and I need to find them as soon as possible to avoid being targeted by the general public.
Lack of communications is also an issue with taxis. Once I booked a taxi and told the operator that I was travelling with my guide dog and the driver should ring my doorbell when they arrive. I received a telephone call from the operator telling me that my taxi had arrived and was waiting outside for me. I reminded the operator of my earlier instructions and asked how I was supposed to identify the taxi outside?
Five minutes later my doorbell rang as I opened the door the driver was already heading back to his taxi.
Locking my front door, Rufus and I walked up to my front gate, only to hear the driver say he cannot take the dog. He proceeded to rant and rave about dogs not being allowed in his taxi. I told him I had advised the operator that I was travelling with a guide dog and he needs to have a go at them and in the meantime I need to get to this council meeting. I could hear him talking on his phone saying he was not prepared to take me. At this point it had started raining and I said to him he was breaking the law by refusing to take us.
That seemed to subdue him for he assisted me and Rufus into his cab and during the journey he kept apologising saying his custom and culture does not accept dogs and his company knew this. I told him it is against the law to refuse access to guide dog owners and their guide dog.
On another occasion I booked a minicab and told the operator that I was blind and the driver needs to come to my front door and ring my doorbell. The phone rang; it was the driver saying that he could not find my property. I gave him specific directions to my home from the location he described to me. Five minutes later, he rang back and asked me to come outside so he could see where my property was and I could see where he was?
I walked outside and waited about ten minutes and then went back in to find four messages on my answer machine from the driver saying he could not see me; he could only see a guy with a white stick, am I anywhere near him? I called him back and told him I was the guy with the white stick.”
The interview with Patrick Robert has been taken from the inews.co.uk (https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/travelling-disabled-person-taxi-drivers-try-refuse-take-guide-dog-i/)
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
Under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) you can bring your guide dogs back to the UK after visiting abroad without having to quarantine your dog. This scheme covers assistance dogs, guide dogs, ferrets, and cats which can be brought back to the UK provided they fulfill certain requirements and conditions. This scheme covers travel by rail, sea, and air. But it does not cover any routes that have not been agreed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It is the DEFRA that administers The Pet Travel Scheme.
If you use a guide dog or service animal in everyday life then naturally you’d like to take it with you when you go on holiday. It’d be far more comfortable and familiar navigating a new environment with your trusted friend and companion, and I’m sure if you were away from them for an extended period of time you’d miss them terribly. Although probably not half as much as they miss you.
This blog will outline the process of taking your guide dog abroad and the steps you need to take to make the process run smoothly.
The Pet Travel Scheme
Under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), you can bring your guide dogs back to the UK after going abroad without having to quarantine your guide dog. This scheme covers assistance dogs, guide dogs, ferrets, and cats which can be brought back to the UK provided they fulfill certain requirements and conditions. This scheme covers travel by rail, sea, and air, but it does not cover any routes that have not been agreed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Check to see if your route and airline is in the list of approved routes by the DEFRA, click here. Routes are constantly being updated however and some only operate during certain times of the year. Therefore I would recommend that you call the DEFRA helpline at 0870 241 1710 for updated information on the route you plan to travel on.
These are the conditions outlined by the EU pet movement system. You will have to fulfil these when traveling from the UK to any other EU country.
All pet cats, dogs, and ferrets that are traveling between EU Member States must be vaccinated against rabies, micro-chipped, and accompanied by a pet passport. The waiting period before you can enter an EU state after first vaccination date is 21 days and you have to get your dog a blood test to make sure the vaccination worked.
If the blood test result is satisfactory, a government-authorised veterinary surgeon will issue an official Pet Passport. To obtain a Pet Passport, take the dog, its vaccination record and blood test result to the LVI, who will then check the documentation and the dog’s microchip number before issuing a passport.
Each country has their own additional requirements as well and thus it is advised that you contact the relevant authorities of the country you are traveling to, to find out about their additional entry requirements.
When returning to the UK you dog must be treated against ticks and tapeworms. The dog must be treated between 24 and 48 hours before being checked in to travel into the UK, and the procedure must be done by a qualified vet.
If you are taking your dog outside the EU you may need a document known as an export health certificate. For more details, you should contact your local DEFRA Animal Health Divisional Office or speak to your own vet.
Preparing For The Flight
Make sure you leave yourself with plenty of time to check yourself in and your guide dog, so I would advise arriving at the airport with a good few hours to spare. It’s best to call ahead to check with your airline to see what time they think you should get there. When travelling with a guide dog you will be required to bring along identification for both yourself and the Pet Passport for their dog. You may also need to additional documentation required by the airline, and a safety harness so your dog can be secured during takeoff and landing.
When traveling back to the UK, you should send your guide dogs Pets Passport documentation to the Animal Reception Centre of the UK airport you will be arriving at, prior to your flight. When you land at that airport, an Animal Clearance Officer will be there to meet you either on the aircraft or the arrival gate, so you can have your documentation approved.
Preparing Your Guide Dog
There are a couple of things that you can do to prepare your guide dog before the journey and make it more comfortable for both your dog, yourself and fellow passengers.
Ensure the dog is well groomed and bathed to reduce shedding.
Consider what you feed your dog beforehand depending on the length of the flight because nature may call, and if nature does call there’s not much your dog can do about that. What you can do though is reduce the chances of nature picking up the phone, and try to control the intensity of what nature wants to say.
Remember a dog’s total digestive process is dependent upon its size and is more rapid than in humans (12-30 hours), and it is recommended to feed a light, highly digestible small feed, at least 12 hours before the flight.
Give the dog opportunities to relieve itself several times on its preferred surface before entering the secured area. Be aware that once at the airport, concrete relief may be the only opportunity available. Be aware of the dog’s normal relief pattern and ask airport personnel as to where an appropriate area is located.
Consider introducing a different relief/exercise routine for a few days before the journey to reduce the chances of the dog needing to relieve during the travelling time.
On The Flight
Obviously a plane is a rather alien environment for a guide dog, so there are a few things you can do to keep it relaxed and comfortable.
Fit the safety harness during takeoff and landing and at all other times when the ‘fasten seat belts’ sign is illuminated.
If your dog is small and weighs less than 10 kilograms it may be able to remain on your lap.
Don’t restrict water at any time; ice cubes can be offered during the flight.
Reassure the dog during the flight, including on take off, and especially if there’s turbulence in flight and on landing.
If during the flight the dog becomes distressed and, despite your best efforts, nature does call, you should notify a member of the crew. You and the dog will be escorted to the passenger toilet and be provided with a moisture absorbent mat or other suitable material.
On longer journeys it could be good to get a fleece/vetbed for the dog to lie on in the aircraft. Absorbent pads could be placed under the fleece, just in case.
Just as a side note, I’ve always wondered if dogs really get what’s happening on the plane. Are they like, “we’ve been inside for quite a while now, this is pretty dull, that man’s feet smell really bad, I wish I was in the park”, or do they get what’s happening and are more, “OH MY GOD I’M IN THE SKY, I’M SO FAR UP IN THE SKY, that man’s feet smell really bad, WHAT IS HAPPENING I’M IN THE SKY!?” Anyone else? … No? Sorry, I’ll get back to the advice.
Preparing Your Guide Dog For The Holiday
Whenever you go on holiday you spend a lot of time preparing. Are there any specific vaccinations you need to get, any dietary requirements to consider, any products you need to protect against flies or the weather? Well it’s the same for your guide dog!
You need to check to see if there are any specific health risks or diseases for dogs in the country that you’re going to, whether or not there will be mosquitos and other potential dangerous insects, whether there’s a problem with feral dogs in the country. Will you be able to buy the right kind of food for your guide dog in the country? The best thing to do is ask your vet for advice and make sure you do your research. If possible talk to people who’ve been to the country before. It may be that there are too many issues and it would be best to reconsider taking your dog and change your plans accordingly.
So that’s our guide to take your guide dog on holiday. We hope it was useful in getting you started, but you will want to look at a more detailed guide, such as this one by GuideDogs.org.uk, before you travel. Always make sure to do your research, and remember the health and comfort of your guide dog is the priority, and if it looks like it will be too much of a risk it may be best to work out different plans.
For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.
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