In this personal account, Les, who has motor neuron disease, shares how he and his wife Angie recently planned a trip to London to go to the theater.
This is Les’ first trip since his diagnosis, and as he learns to navigate life with a disability, he has a lot more to say about what he has done and who he has reached out to for information and support. We share step-by-step instructions.
We were listening to the radio and heard Matthew Kelly being interviewed about Noises Off, which is currently running at the Phoenix Theatre. It sounded like a great play to go see. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get there, but I made a plan and hoped to see it before it was finished.
As an MND patient, I was apprehensive about my first overnight trip away from home other than staying with friends and family. There was only a small four-wheeled manual wheelchair without a . It cannot be used for overseas travel. A manual wheelchair with large rear wheels and brakes had to be obtained for Angie to use.
I also have a mobility scooter which is great for getting around our local village and just right for Angie to break down and put in the boot of her Skoda Yeti. Unfortunately my ‘Vantage’ mobility scooter is too long to fit on a London bus. The maximum length allowed for buses is 100cm in length with a turning radius of less than 120cm, and the Vantage is 120cm in length with a turning radius outside of 152cm. Most companies allow mobility scooters on trains, but you may have to adhere to certain restrictions (usually he is 300 kg (including weight) and less than 1.2 meters in length). Traveling on a scooter may also require a permit provided by the railway company. These aren’t hard to come by, but you may need to pick up some to make your journey possible.
First, how do you get to London? We live in Lincolnshire and the nearest station to London without change is from Grantham to King’s Cross. Secondly, where were we going to stay? We have been to London several times over the years and now had to consider traveling as wheelchair users. Third, how did you plan to travel from King’s Cross to the hotel? We walk around London all the time and never took a bus or used a taxi. I have used the subway before, but I was afraid to use the subway this time. Fourth, how do you get theater tickets and get there from your hotel? Finally, as we were planning to stay overnight, we had to arrange a place to have dinner.
Undisabled I was able to book return train tickets for a long weekend in London, contact theater box office to get tickets, plan walking routes while in London, and explore the main areas of my choice. Just had to book a centrally located hotel. We spent the weekend and booked a nice place for dinner on the first night. Our car is registered with her DVLA for disabled use, so we found the Skoda exempt from congestion and pollution taxes, but we had no idea of driving through London.
I went to the internet and typed in ‘Grantham to King’s Cross’. It brought out some ticket companies and I was able to find out the time and cost.I also asked about wheelchair access.Our local railroad company HaltrainI called their customer service and was told that wheelchair accessible seats with companion seats were available for both legs of our journey, and assistance getting on and off trains at both Grantham and Kings Cross. I spoke with a lovely lady who explained that I could receive
We searched for the closest hotels to the Phoenix Theater and one of the closest was the Travel Lodge on Drury Lane. We were able to book an “accessible room” and breakfast. I went to his website for the Phoenix Theater, clicked to book a ticket, and was redirected to: ATG ticketI had a little trouble finding barrier-free tickets. The site had a lot of information, but rather information overload. I called the disability helpline and spoke with a very kind lady. The lady explained the process and looked for open seats on three different dates.The woman explained that I could apply online. access card However, it seems better to apply directly to Nimbus (0330 808 5108).
Nimbus is a charity dedicated to disability needs to make sure people have fun and get involved at over 2,500 venues in the UK. This card does not guarantee tickets anywhere, but it does provide venues with information about their disability needs and any assistance they may need.I visited the Nimbus website (www.nimbusdisability.com) but after reading the various questions I thought it would be easier to talk to someone and have a better idea of what information you need and what kind of help you can get. As a user, I found my needs to be a ‘+1’ with Level Access wheelchair users. Nine different levels of disability are covered, ranging from difficulty queuing, wheelchair access, difficulty using stairs but able to walk, to invisible disability. There is a complete guide on the Nimbus website.
It took about 4 days for my access card to arrive, but I returned to the Phoenix Theater website and was able to book my ticket through ATG (accessibility assistance line on 0333 009 5399). This phone number is for customers with disabilities only. There is also TypeTalk/Textphone 18001 0333 009 5399. The lady was extremely helpful. I was able to reserve tickets for 2 seats when transferring from a wheelchair. There was a dedicated disabled access door where a member of staff assisted us in and out of our seats.
accommodation and meals
We stopped at the Travel Lodge on Drury Lane. The hotel is about 15 feet above the roadway, but there is a “zigzag” ramp for wheelchairs at the rear. It’s pretty steep, but Angie pushed me up to the ramp. The Travel Lodge staff were very friendly and helpful. we will certainly stay there again. We stopped in room 270 which is an accessible room. In the unlikely event of evacuation, the staff was ready to evacuate me with an evacuation chair. We booked to eat at Zizzi on Central Street Giles, about a 4 minute walk from the Travel Lodge and about a 5 minute walk to the Phoenix Theater. When I arrived, I was shown to another seat and my chair was moved so I could stay in my wheelchair. The food was excellent and the staff were very kind. The sign says the restrooms are downstairs, but when I asked, I was directed to the disabled restrooms on the same floor.
Grantham and King’s Cross stations are operated by the LNER. The assistance provided at both stations was top notch. We went to Grantham’s customer service desk and made our way to the waiting room. I met the staff there and got a ride on the train. At Kings Cross he had 3 staff waiting for us and dropped us off the train. The return trip was just as easy, and the train staff were just as nice and helpful.
Since Kings Cross is only 1.3 miles from Travel Lodge, we chose not to take public transportation to our hotel or theater. The weather was nice and Angie pushed me to the hotel and decided to take the bus if it was too difficult. We managed the entire distance… (only had two falls due to the bumpy sidewalks). It was lovely to go out. The next morning, as she was on her way home to Cross, the TFL bus stopped and asked if the driver actually wanted to take the bus.
The Phoenix Theater is very well set up to accommodate visitors with disabilities. We got there early and met the staff who helped us out of the cold. I asked if I could see the box they had set aside for disabled visitors who could not move to their seats. We were taken to a separate entrance for the disabled and placed in a box. This is a restricted view, but the website and ticket office site explain the fact. We did this and ice cream was brought to our seats during the break.
As first-time travelers with wheelchairs, I have to say our experience was excellent. I will definitely return to London to explore other places and return to my hobby of photography.
Since his diagnosis, Les has Motor Neurological Society (MND Association). This charity funds research, improves care, and supports people with MND, their families, and caregivers. Call the MND Association Connect Helpline on 0808 802 6262 or go online for support. www.mnda association.org
http://enablemagazine.co.uk/your-voice-our-trip-to-london-by-train-to-see-a-play/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=your-voice-our-trip-to-london-by-train-to-see-a-play Your voice: A trip to London to see a play by train