Should Transport for London introduce a badge for those less able to stand?

Guest post from Alice Ravenscroft.

Most Londoners would likely agree that commuting in the rush hour is not a particularly enjoyable experience. But what is it like for those with disabilities that are not easily visible? In 2005, TfL introduced the “Baby on Board” badge for pregnant women to signal to other passengers their greater need for a seat. Should a similar badge be introduced for those who are less able to stand?

As a result of a serious injury a few years ago, it is difficult for me to walk or stand for longer than 20 minutes at a time, but this is not immediately visibly obvious. I began commuting into London for work in 2012 and on a daily basis I feel the need for a way of signalling the problem to fellow passengers and find it a hassle to have to ask passengers for a seat every day. In my experience people much prefer to give up their seat voluntarily rather than being asked.

The possibility of not getting a seat or of someone knocking into me has certainly been a barrier to my independence and employment opportunities in the past and I have heard similar stories from other people with invisible disabilities and injuries. A report was commissioned by TfL in 2010, which assessed over 250 peak hour commutes on London public transport undertaken by disabled passengers. One of its key recommendations was that “TfL should run poster campaigns to raise awareness of disabled commuters (who may not always be obviously disabled) amongst other commuters”.

In 2005 TfL conducted research into the issue of pregnant women getting seats on the tube and found that:

  • 92% thought that people sitting down should offer the seat to a pregnant woman without having to be asked;
  • 85% think pregnant women should ask for a seat if she needs one;
  • 78% of currently pregnant women stated that they never ask for a seat when they need one.

Is it possible that giving passengers with hidden disabilities the option of wearing a badge would improve their commute and thus their quality of life and employment opportunities? There are two potential challenges I can think of. The first is that people might try to cheat the system, however I think that ensuring that badges are only distributed by medical professionals would reduce the likelihood of this. In addition, it is not the same as the Blue Badge for parking, in that it involves face-to-face interaction with other people, which I imagine would deter most people from wearing a badge under false pretenses.

A second potential obstacle is that people with disabilities might feel embarrassed or not want to be marked out. I would suggest that using a non-precise phrase on the badge like “less able to stand” rather than the word “disabled” would help considerably with this. Of course, a survey should be done to gather the opinions of people with disabilities themselves.

I myself would happily wear a “less able to stand” badge to make the commute a little easier. I would also like to see London become more inclusive and accessible to those with disabilities.

What do you think? If you would like TfL to consider this idea, please Tweet @TfLOfficial and comment below.

Disabled commuters’ journey experiences (PDF)

(photo credit: Acme on Flickr)