Transport For London, which coordinates public transport in the UK’s capital, offers a system to help disabled travelers.
The Travel Support Card allows anyone disabled to ask for help on virtually all public service transport in London.
To show why I think this is so important let me give a personal example, not in London but very locally, and I was on foot at the time!
Not long ago I suddenly became half blind, in a quite literal sense.
My doctor was great. She quickly booked me an appointment, for later that day, at an emergency eye clinic in a world-famous hospital.
I was ever so grateful but gulped a bit – I’d been to the hospital once a long ago and it was big then. Like a whole village at least. It would have grown by now.
(Me, a bit panicky. Remember I can’t see properly.) “How will I find the eye clinic?”
(Doctor.) “Any member of staff will help if you ask. They are obliged to give directions to anyone that needs them.”
What a big weight that was off my mind! And when I got to the hospital everyone was indeed wonderful in giving directions, and has been on all my visits since then. If you look lost someone will offer help almost at once. It’s such a help and such a reassurance.
Now consider London. It is several thousand times bigger than my hospital where I was so anxious about finding my way. That’s why the Travel Support Card is needed so much!
You can find our more about the scheme here. The very first examples it gives, of the kind of help a disabled traveler might need, are
- What platform (or bus stop) do I need?
- Can you show me they way to it?
I’ve been there, done these. They would be top of my list. Lose a bit of vision and a railway station is suddenly a bit bewildering. It’s like a foreign country, where the systems are different and the signs are all hard to understand.
The new TFL scheme costs essentially nothing, in fact you have to print your own card! But it is resource-intensive when it comes to imagination, understanding and empathy. Perhaps one or more of its designers are themselves disabled travelers.
It will help me a lot when I shortly pass through London again, something I have not done since I had a stoke six months ago. I almost certainly won’t need the card, you understand. But when you become disabled, then however good your rehabilitation you are still likely to lose some confidence and travel is one of the areas where it bites. This is a very common experience. That loss of confidence has restricted my mobility.
The Travel Support Card gives reassurance, says you are entitled to ask for help, and treats disabled people with dignity and consideration. It’s a good example of how simply focusing on people’s needs can make real improvements.
Elliott Brown http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:London_Victoria_Station_%288103888055%29.jpg