‘It’s everyone’s journey’
Why we are supporting the Department for Transport’s new campaign, and why more change is needed.
It challenged my opinion that people wouldn’t be willing to help and meant I could travel safely. Next time, I’ll be more confident to ask when I need a seat.
The quote ‘hell is other people’ never seems more apt than when I’m stuck on a rush-hour tube, packed in with other passengers like a tin of sardines. Although miserable for most, this is made ten times worse as I struggle with bad balance due to my deafness.
There’s nothing more mortifying than falling backwards and having to apologise to a disgruntled commuter for stepping on their toes. I’d love to sit down safely but the priority seats are always taken. Plus it’s an unspoken rule of commuting that eye contact with another commuter will not be made under any circumstances.
Not all disabilities are visible
I should ask if the person sitting in the priority seat could give up their seat, but I’m painfully aware that my disability is an invisible one. There isn’t anything that immediately marks me out as needing a seat, and a lifetime of hearing ‘oh, but you don’t look deaf!’ has left me reluctant to trust that strangers will react well to me asking for help. I spend journeys trying very hard to stay upright.
Hogging priority seats and ignoring those who are struggling aren’t the only behaviours passengers exhibit that make public transport less accessible. I’m sure many of us have been bounced around by passengers charging through the station, or shoving in front of us to the barriers.
Campaigner Kathy told me she finds it really hard to navigate stations at busy times. She doesn’t always manage to brake her powerchair in time when people run in front of her. No one should get hurt over catching the train!
Department for Transport campaign
So what’s the answer? How do we challenge these negative attitudes on public transport? The Department for Transport has launched a public awareness campaign, aiming to change attitudes towards disabled people on public transport.
‘It’s everyone’s journey’ challenges the way we act on public transport by encouraging passengers to be more aware of and kinder to other passengers. With almost half of disabled people reporting problems with negative passenger attitudes on public transport, Leonard Cheshire has partnered with the Department for Transport to promote the campaign.
The difference kindness can make is huge. Two weeks ago, when falling about on a particularly hellish tube ride, another passenger noticed I was struggling and offered me his seat. It was such a small act but made a massive difference.
It challenged my opinion that people wouldn’t be willing to help and meant I could travel safely. Next time, I’ll be more confident to ask when I need a seat. Hopefully ‘it’s everyone’s journey’ will encourage more people to change their behaviours and be more considerate.
Passenger attitudes are only part of the issue
Despite all this, we mustn’t forget that fixing passenger attitudes removes only one of the barriers that disabled people face when accessing public transport. So much more still needs to be done.
There needs to be better access to information and assistance, improved staff training and better accessible facilities at stations and on trains. As well as a significant investment in infrastructure to ensure that all journeys are fully accessible.
As our campaigner William said, we can’t just rely on the wonderful British public to help us catch the train. Until all journeys are accessible, they won’t be everyone’s journey.