Whilst browsing through my twitter account yesterday, I became aware of a new scheme which Transport for London are trialling, which encourages passengers to give up their seat for someone who needs it more, particularly disabled passengers. Participating passengers will have a card and wear a badge, saying “Please offer me a seat.”
As a disabled wheelchair user who regularly uses public transport, albeit not in London much, I have very mixed feelings about this. Although I am fortunate enough to at least always have my own seat, (thankfully!) I am often left very frustrated by my fellow passengers attitudes, who fail to consider my needs by pushing on to trains or buses in front of me and using the designated wheelchair space as a dumping ground for their luggage. (Rather than taking the time to put it in the designated space for luggage) It is much easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair before everyone else gets on but few people ever consider this.
So on the one hand, I think Transport for London should be generously applauded for taking the initiative to improve things for disabled people; they have identified this as a significant problem and are taking proactive steps to improve the experience for disabled passengers, particularly those who may not feel confident in speaking up to tell people what they need.
But on the other hand, I feel sad and frustrated that it’s considered that such schemes are needed. If people were more considerate and thoughtful, we would all have a much more positive experience of public transport, including disabled people. If we all moved as far as possible, leaving the front seats available for those who need them, as is the intention, there would be less need for people to move – and be torn away from their Smart Phones! 🙂
Common sense also plays a big part. We all need to be aware of those around us and be prepared to assist those who may need a seat or even assistance with luggage etc.
I think many disabled people may also feel self-conscious about wearing a badge which advertises the fact that they have a disability. Others may feel cheeky about asking for a seat, particularly if their disability isn’t immediately obvious. And although I understand that the scheme relies upon goodwill, unfortunately this isn’t always forthcoming and some disabled people may fear confrontation from those who question their greater need for a seat.
Despite my reservations, I hope the scheme is successful and at the very least, encourages people to be a little more considerate of the needs of their fellow passengers.