Katy Taylor: We must continue listening to deliver accessible transport

3 December 2020: Katy Taylor, Go-Ahead's Chief Strategy and Customer Officer, writes for the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 

Travelling can be a difficult experience for some people, so it is critical as a public transport operator that we empower our passengers to feel confident in using our services.

The theme of 2020’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is that “not all disabilities are visible.” While all our bus and rail services are accessible to passengers with wheelchairs, pushchairs and guide dogs, we also aim to equip colleagues to support passengers with hidden disabilities.  Progress has been made but we know there is still more to do. 

We must continue to listen to our passengers, colleagues and disability groups. I am particularly proud of the hard work of Brighton & Hove Buses and Metrobus in this space.  Last month, they were recognised by the Department for Transport as one of only two public transport providers in England to achieve the Highest Leader status.

Disabled people’s voices have helped inform the company on every aspect of delivering services. The bus company has improved its screens and audio announcements while ensuring it does not have black floors on our buses, which helps those with dementia and black-out seizure triggers9c. Helping Hand for Drivers and Customers - I need a priority seat please C.jpg.

The company also launched the Helping Hand card, a credit card sized card that empowers the holder to discreetly advise the bus driver if they need further assistance. It also contains an emergency number section, which was first suggested by an employee who has autism.

The DFT’s Inclusive Leaders scheme was open to all transport operators across bus, rail, air, ferries and ports so the fact that the company were ranked so highly really demonstrates how Brighton & Hove Buses is leading the way on accessible transport in England.

Meanwhile, our other bus and rail companies are making steps to ensure all travel is accessible for disabled people by 2030 under the government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy.

Southeastern was the first train operator in the UK to roll out sunflower lanyards in 2019. This came from a colleague – a station manager who has a child with autism. This initiative was adopted across the UK by all rail companies this year and demonstrates how one person can really help to make a difference to the lives of many.

TryATrain2Govia Thameslink Railway hosts ‘Try a Train’ sessions, which supports people who may encounter barriers when travelling – from buying a ticket, identifying station facilities and looking at information boards. Each session is tailored to a specific group’s requirements, and the team has provided sessions to students with learning needs and people with autism.

Finally, we all have a role to play in ensuring we are considering others. This has come to the forefront more recently, with the wearing of face coverings on public transport. We must show kindness and respect to the people who cannot wear a face covering and remember that not all disabilities are obvious or visible.