At the start of Transport for London’s (TfL’s) Priority Seating Week, new research has revealed that around one in four passengers feels awkward about offering their seat to someone who might need it more. A survey of 1,000 customers also found that almost a third of passengers only believe that they should offer their seat if they are in a ‘priority seat’.
TfL’s Priority Seating Week aims to address these issues by raising awareness of how to make travelling easier for everyone, particularly those who may be in need of a seat. From this week, customers will also start to notice brand new designs on the fabric covering priority seats on the Jubilee line. Seats that feature six different messages, including ‘please offer this seat’ and ‘someone may need this seat more’, will be introduced across the whole Jubilee line over the coming months.
Posters featuring staff will be running across the network and video clips with customers talking about their journeys will be shared on social media. These are meant to encourage people to look up and offer their seat to someone who may need it more, whether they are in a priority seat or not. The week will also highlight some of the initiatives that TfL has in place to make travelling easier for everyone. They have worked with a wide range of charities on the campaign, including Transport for All, Anxiety UK and Meniere’s Society.
To raise awareness about priority seating, Dr Amit Patel, who was interviewed by Asian Voice (in 19 January 2019 issue P15 or online: https://www.asian-voice.com/Lifestyle/Spotlight/Dr-Amit-Patel-the-Enlightened-Leading-the-Blind), fitted his guide dog Kika with a camera to record evidence of discrimination. He captured shocking footage of uncaring commuters, bringing light to society’s attitude towards having disabilities.
Please Offer Me a Seat
Priority Seating Week also marks the second year anniversary of the free ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ badge. More than 44,000 badges have been issued to disabled customers and those with invisible conditions since it was launched in 2017. The badge has since been adopted by a number of travel networks in the UK and across the world including Greater Anglia Trains and the New York Transport Authority.
Dr Patel, who lost his vision when he was 32, told Asian Voice in an interview, “When I was sighted before, I would always give my seat up for people. I could not imagine the difficulty. I am holding a cane and have a guide dog so it’s unacceptable that people wouldn’t acknowledge me. A lot of the time, these are suited commuters who probably have pets of their own at home too.”
Hailing the TfL campaign, he told the BBC, “I'm really pleased to see TfL proactively raising awareness about priority seating.
"Travelling with a disability, whether hidden or not can be challenging, scary and sometimes even disorienting.
"Not everyone has the confidence to ask for a seat and not everyone will always be wearing a badge either.
"I would urge my fellow commuters to be more conscious of those around them when travelling, particularly if you're sat in a priority seat, and please be brave, be kind, and offer it to someone who looks like they might appreciate it."
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said, “It’s vital that we make our transport network accessible to all Londoners and visitors, so I’m really pleased that distinctive new priority seats are being rolled out on the Jubilee line. I hope that they will build on the success of our ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ badges to encourage even more people to offer their seat to those who need them.”
Nicky Lidbetter, Chief Executive Anxiety UK, told Asian Voice, “We very much welcome this second Priority Seating Week and the ongoing work by TfL to ensure all hidden conditions receive parity of esteem with physical health conditions for customers using public transport in London. Anxiety disorders often cause those living with these conditions huge challenges around travel so is it is extremely pleasing to see TfL making this an important priority for its customers.”
Natasha Harrington-Benton, Director Meniere's Society, said,“The severe, unpredictable vertigo and associated symptoms experienced by people with Ménière's disease and related vestibular (inner ear) disorders can be debilitating and disorientating for those affected; particularly when travelling. Using public transport can be extremely stressful when you are experiencing the symptoms of these conditions. The TfL ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ badge is great for people with invisible conditions like these – because they appear well on the outside they may lack confidence to ask for a seat when they need it. Wearing the badge would lessen their anxiety and help them feel reassured when they travel.”
“When I was sighted before, I would always give my seat up for people. I could not imagine the difficulty. I am holding a cane and have a guide dog so it’s unacceptable that people wouldn’t acknowledge me. A lot of the time, these are suited commuters who probably have pets of their own at home too.”