Published: 17th MAY 2022

How we're making our language more inclusive

We want to make walking and cycling accessible and desirable for everyone. To do this we need to understand the impact of how we communicate and the language we use. Our Chief Executive, Xavier Brice, explains how and why we're now using the term 'wheeling' to ensure that wheelchair and mobility scooter users aren't excluded.

A man in a wheelchair smiling and laughing alongside a woman walking on the Festival Way in Bristol

Photo: Jon Bewley/photojb

Since Sustrans was founded over 40 years ago, we’ve always sought to improve paths, pavements, and places.

We want to ensure that walking and cycling is both accessible and desirable for everyone, although we know this is not always the case.

Part of being inclusive is understanding the impact of how we communicate and the language we use, and this is why we will be using the term ‘wheeling’ across our work.

Using the term 'wheeling'

We have been consulting with charities led by disabled people and have decided to begin using the word 'wheeling' across our work to ensure our activities and language is inclusive for everyone.

Many wheelchair and mobility scooter users do not identify with the term ‘walking’.

This can leave people feeling excluded or ignored when it comes to the design of streets and places.

One way to help change this is by adopting the term wheeling which some wheelchair and mobility scooter users better identify with.

Using the term also puts wheeling, and disabled people, front and centre in our minds when we develop places for people.

The term is advocated for by many disability-led organisations, such as the Mobility and Access Committee in Scotland and Wheels for Wellbeing, while being used by Transport for All.

The Scottish Government and Sustrans in Scotland have also adopted the term for the past few years.

Man in wheelchair on shared use path

Photo: Elliot Manches, Centre for Ageing Better

Using walking and wheeling together

Sustrans will use the term alongside walking.

While many wheelchair and mobility scooter users identify with the term wheeling, others prefer walking.

Using both terms together allows people to identify with walking or wheeling as they prefer and implicitly includes a wider range of people.

Defining the term 'wheeling'

One of the biggest issues with the term ‘wheeling’ is that it is poorly understood, including within the transport sector itself and across Sustrans.

For example, a recent survey by Sustrans of local decision-makers, transport professionals, business representatives and planners across the UK found most were unsure about the use of the term.

This means we need to bring our audiences with us and educate them when we use the term.

We will therefore seek to always clearly define the term where we use it across our work.

Better representing people who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters

By adopting the term wheeling we make a public commitment to ensure we listen to, engage and better represent people who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

By extension, we will seek to design policy and spaces that are fully accessible for wheels and feet, and disabled people more broadly.

Isabelle Clement, Director of Wheels for Wellbeing:

“We recommend always using ‘walking and wheeling’ together.

“Both words represent the action of moving at a pedestrian’s pace, whether or not someone is standing or sitting, walking or wheeling unaided or using any kind of aid to mobility, including walking aids, wheeled aids, personal assistants or support animals.”

We'll be rolling out wheeling across our work online and through our delivery over the next few months, and we invite others to join us in using the term alongside walking.


We believe everyone should have the right to walk and wheel, and feel safe, comfortable and welcome while doing so.

Download our guide to making walking and wheeling accessible, inclusive and desirable.

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