Search icon


12th Aug 2019

Mum wants people to know what it’s like to be a parent with a disability on public transport

Melissa Carton

Using public transport with kids is always a struggle but when you are also a wheelchair user that struggle is multiplied.

My cousin is a wheelchair user and whenever I have to try to navigate my pram around a driver who parked on a path I think how much of an inconvenience it would be to someone in a wheelchair.

It never even crossed my mind that some mums have the double struggle of navigating a wheelchair and a buggy!

Mum and blogger Fi Anderson wrote an in-depth piece for website Mum on a Misson, to highlight the issues affecting parents with disabilities.

The mum who runs blog Life of an Ambitious Turtle eloquently detailed her experiences of using public transport as a wheelchair user and a parent.

While Anderson is a wheelchair user, she started her post discussing those whose disability is not always apparent;

“Mum’s Can Have Invisible Disabilities Too. Many people are aware after a high profile London Tube campaign that there’s now a badge you can wear if you’re disabled and need a seat on the tube, that’ll hopefully take the awkwardness out of asking a stranger to give up their seat and rather have them offer out of kindness.

What you may not of thought of is the Mother that just came on with a baby in the pram, might be a disabled parent. That pram might be her lifeline of not just transporting her baby but her mobility aid aswell as there’s simply no way you can push a pram aswell as use a pair of crutches or a walker. “

She went on to discuss those invisible ailments can sometimes lead to standoffs between disabilities on the use of spaces on the bus ;

“A disabled parent may not be able to fold up their child’s buggy to enable a wheelchair user to get on.

I feel incredibly guilty that this one didn’t dawn on me until I experienced it myself. I am a disabled parent who’s a wheelchair user and even I, with all my access issues didn’t think about those still ambulant and being asked to collapse their child’s buggy for someone like me to get on.”

While I hate the idea of trying to get onto public transport with a buggy I never considered the problems that mums who are also wheelchair users face, when trying to find space to accommodate both wheelchair and pram.

“You have to wait until there’s no buggies.

When you’re a wheelchair using parent and travelling with your child in a buggy, you cannot board a bus with other buggies on as most companies won’t let parents and wheelchair users play tetris amongst themselves and be adults about it.

So by policy travelling with my family often means I occupy the wheelchair space AND the buggy bay. Which results in us missing several buses in a row.”

I can’t imagine what a nightmare this must be in the winter when the weather is freezing.

Fi also spoke candidly about how inappropriate people can be when it comes to her going out with her children;

“It was mainly when my little ones were babies that strangers on public transport thought it was appropriate to open a conversation with such things as; “Is that baby yours?” “Like biologically? You’re so inspirational you know, having a child in your state”

While I, and the writer herself, can understand people wanting to understand what it’s like to be a parent with a disability, there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach it.

Asking questions like this is very much the wrong approach.

She also brought up a topic that comes up again and again with parents using public transport, the wheelchair versus buggy issue;

“I honestly think neither should be deemed priority, it all depends on the situation and the individuals. For example I’m not going to get in a tizz if a Mum with a newborn is in the wheelchair space and demand they get off cos wheelchairs are supposed to be priority. That isn’t morally right in my eyes if I can wait.

As a Disabled Parent, like any parent I put baby first. But if there’s a older child or an empty buggy in that wheelchair space and it’s poring down with rain or I’m feeling unwell/bursting for the loo cos there’s no Changing Places around, I will ask if you will fold the buggy so I can get on.”

Anderson’s ultimate message was to be considerate to other parents, especially those dealing with a disability;

“It’s no secret many disabled people are fiercely independent and struggle to accept help. But if there’s been one time in my life that made me realise that asking/accepting help wasn’t a bad thing, it was when I became a disabled parent. Don’t be afraid to offer help for fear of rejection, we aren’t all the same.”

Looking out for other parents is something I think is so important because nobody knows better how hard it can be but ourselves.

Many parents deal with mobility issues on a daily basis and yet I find that there is very little consideration given to it.

While bus spaces and badges are a good starting point there still needs to be a lot more education on the matter.

If you would like to read the full post from Fi, you can find it here on website Mum on a Mission.