Disabled train travellers: getting over barriers

A visually impaired man with his guide dog going through ticket barriers
Deaprtment for Transport
RiDC Research
30 Aug 2019

Getting over barriers for disabled train travellers 

RiDC research shows that disabled people still face many barriers to travelling by train, including getting help with ticketing, the availability of accessible toilets on trains and at stations, and aggressive or discriminatory behaviour from other passengers.

Disabled people taking part in RiDC’s research also suggested a number of solutions to these problems.



The biggest barriers for disabled travellers when buying and using train tickets are: 

  • Ticket offices not being open at the station. This affects people with dexterity difficulties the most. 
  • Tickets choices are too complicated. The confusing number of different tickets to choose from particularly affects travellers with social difficulties. 
  • Knowing you have the right ticket for the journey, which is a concern for a wide range of disabled passengers. 

Accessible toilets 

At the station: 

The lack of accessible toilets at the station is a barrier to travel for many disabled people. Problems our research highlighted include: 

  • RADAR toilets having an additional lock, requiring users to find a member of staff to assist and a lack of hoist or Changing Places facilities at stations. 

On the train: 

Not being able to use a clean, accessible toilet on the train is an even greater barrier to travel. Our research pointed at problems with: 

  • identifying available toilets 
  • toilets too small, with too little room for wheelchair users to manoeuvre or transfer to the toilet 
  • toilet control buttons (such as opening or locking the door), especially for blind and partially sighted people 


Almost three in ten who experienced problems on-board trains reported aggressive or discriminatory behaviour by other passengers. This can include: 

  • aggressive responses when asking to sit in a priority seat 
  • feeling vulnerable when there’s a confrontation 
  • needs conflicting with those of other passengers, such as a need to have the window open to help with nausea and panic associated with anxiety 

A single aggressive incident can put disabled people off travelling by rail again for some time. 


The disabled people taking part in our research suggested a number of solutions to these barriers, based on their experience of train travel. They include: 


  • an accessible ticket machine in every station 
  • simplify tickets: a single ticket for outward and return journey; no unnecessary information on a ticket 
  • digital tickets, tickets printable at home 

Toilets on trains 

  • improve storage to prevent luggage blocking access to toilets 
  • provide up-to-date toilet information 
  • provide more fixtures and fittings appropriate for multiple disabilities, such as 
  • hand rails outside train toilets to help while queuing 
  • a place to put crutches and other walking aids; shelves for people’s equipment; hooks and mirrors put where everyone can reach them 


  • posters and signs reminding people to be considerate of other passengers 
  • encourage and reward supportive behaviour by staff 
  • make better use of technology, such as passengers being able to activate CCTV using their smart phones 
  • more staff at stations and on trains 

Our research was published as part of a Department for Transport (DfT) report in July 2019.

The DfT has also announced a £20m rail accessibility fund to help stations make small-scale improvements such as tactile paving, handrails, and humps which increase platform heights.