Episode 16 – How I get around

We have a really informative episode lined up this time around.

In this episode Odai will give a talk which contains advice tips and personal experiences on the difficulties of manuvering through a big city.

Also you will hear information regarding the freedom pass scheme set up by London Councils how it started and what it entitles people to.

This one is different to our usual ones but we hope you find this informative and eye-opening.

If you would like to be on an episode of Audible Autism, please fill out our form here, and we’d love to chat with you.


Here are the questions and answers regarding the Freedom pass from this episode:

What is the Freedom Pass scheme and how long has it been around for? How many people are issued one every year in London?

The Freedom Pass is the name given to the London-wide concessionary travel scheme, which provides free travel on all TfL services and most trains in London to over one million older and 180,000 disabled London residents. It is the most comprehensive concessionary travel scheme in Europe.

The scheme has evolved over many years with more generous travel concessions offered, for example from half-fare to free travel, and with availability extended to more modes of transport over the years.

London-wide free bus travel was granted to London residents of pensionable age in 1974; however blind Londoners received travel concessions prior to this. Blind servicemen in London received free travel concessions on tubes, trams and buses in 1922 following a government directive offering free mainline rail travel to wounded servicemen in 1921. A blind and disabled travel concession (which was not restricted to ex-servicemen) was introduced much later in the 1960s.

It was branded the Freedom Pass in 1998, and free travel on local buses was extended to the rest of England in 2010. People meet the criteria either by age (currently 65 – eligibility age increasing by phases to 66 by 2020) or who have a disability. The scheme is funded by London local authorities and managed by London Councils (an umbrella group representing all 32 London boroughs and the City of London) on their behalf.

Around 48,000 passes are issued each year to new applicants. The pass lasts for 5 years, and passholders are invited to renew their pass before it is due to expire.

What are the main ways you try to promote the scheme so that people know they are eligible for it?

The Freedom Pass has its own website, managed by London Councils. Each borough also has a section on how to apply on its own website.


Boroughs also have copies of application forms and their own local publicity.

What does the disability freedom pass entitle you to and in what ways might it be more beneficial than a regular oyster card (we read on the website that it entitles you to free travel on buses in other cities…?)

See above. Oyster cards have to be paid for, whereas the Freedom Pass allows free travel. The Disabled Freedom Pass has the same benefits as the Older Person’s Freedom Pass.

What sort of proof is needed for those who might have a statutory disability to add to their Freedom Pass application, for example, autism?

Applications for the Older Person’s Freedom Pass are managed by London Councils, but applicants for the Disabled Freedom Pass apply to their local authority. For example, someone living with a disability in Lambeth would need to contact Lambeth Council, and someone living with a disability in Brent would need to contact Brent Council.

Boroughs use the Transport Act 2000 statutory eligibility criteria, as amended by the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007, to assess applicants. However, some boroughs issue Discretionary Passes to people who do not meet the criteria in exceptional circumstances.

All applicants have to provide written evidence of residency in the local borough and also that they meet the disability criteria. This can range from being registered blind with the local authority, having a Certificate of Visual Impairment (CVI), to receiving certain benefits such as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Alternatively, medical evidence from a doctor or specialist may be provided.

Although London Councils may give general guidance, it is for each local authority to interpret the criteria and carry out assessments. With regards to autism, we believe each applicant is assessed individually and there is not a catch-all criteria.


According to the website, in the section one of the statutory disabilities that allows someone to be eligible for it is: 6) People who have a learning disability that is defined as ‘a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning’. Some people may feel that this ruling is slightly vague and might put them off from applying, especially autistic people who might be disabled but do not see themselves in this definition –  is there anything you feel that might quell those suspicions?

Local authorities work within the guidance they are given under government legislation. London boroughs are keen to make sure that those entitled to a Freedom Pass are benefiting from the opportunities offered through concessionary travel. We work in partnership with organisations such as Transport for All and attend local mobility forums to give presentations and answer questions about inclusivity and disabled access. We are not aware of any autistic people being discouraged from applying.

What are the ways that people can apply to get a Freedom Pass? Are applications processed by individual councils with their own criteria, or do councils interpret centralised standards?

Applicants for the Older Person’s Freedom Pass can apply online or by paper and these applications are handled by a contractor working for London Councils.

Applications for the Disabled Freedom Pass are assessed by each local authority, using the statutory guidance as outlined above. The application process can vary from borough to borough, with some offering online as well as paper applications. London Councils will launch an online portal later this year for Disabled Freedom Pass applicants, which will provide a simpler and more efficient service for Londoners with disabilities.