Even though all buses, tubes, trains and trams have clearly marked priority seats for anyone who needs them, I wince at the thought of having to use public transport due to my condition.
I was born with a rare genetic condition, called Osteogenesis Imperfecta - known as brittle bones. It means I have a short stature of 3″10 and my bones are liable to break without any trauma.
A few years ago, I was waiting for a tube and nearly got knocked onto the track by a woman running to the exit because she didn’t see me.
She didn’t even realise what had happened.
Meanwhile I was in shock, having heart palpations, but at the same time so grateful I was still standing on the platform.
We all know how packed public transport gets during peak times. It’s a miracle to find a space to stand let alone sit.
Now imagine having a short stature or sitting in a wheelchair. There is no space for you, and if you do manage to get on, all you get is people knocking their elbows and bags into your head, and everyone’s bum in your face, because that’s our eye level – and this is all before you’ve even got to work or started your day.
Travelling with a condition or impairment can be challenging, scary and even disorientating. This is why priority seating is so important to those who need it.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of TfL’s ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ badge, which is a brilliant initiative, especially for those that don’t have the confidence to ask someone to give up their seat.
To celebrate the anniversary, this week is officially TfL’s Priority Seating Week.
Since the badges launched a year ago, more than 30,000 have been issued to Londoners with a range of disabilities and conditions.
The disability charity Scope has praised the initiative.
Scope is also calling for transport staff to be given disability awareness training for a range of conditions and impairments, especially those which may be less visible such as hearing impairments, autism spectrum disorders and disabled people who have limited mobility but are not using a wheelchair.
This is really important, but passengers need to be more aware too.
Due to my short stature, I have a very visible condition, and yet there have been many occasions where the tube or bus has been full and no one has me offered me a seat.
I have sat on so many train carriage floors because I can’t stand or walk for long periods of time, and unless the offer of a seat is made as soon as I get on, then it is of no use to me. I can’t risk walking through the crowds or trying to sit down while the tube is moving as I could fall.
I am clearly a person who would really appreciate a seat, but we live in a time where people are absorbed in their mobile phones and do not really notice what is going on around them. Whilst I shouldn’t have to wear a badge for someone to notice I would appreciate a seat, I’m very glad this initiative exists.
I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be for people with non-visible disabilities to ask someone to give up theirs. The Priority Seating Week campaign aims to get more people to give up their seats for those with both visible and non-visible impairments.
I don’t feel that people are deliberately unkind, but as a Brummie, I have learnt that Londoners certainly don’t use public transport to talk to people they don’t know.
Due to my short stature, people don’t always see me get on, and there are too many people I would have to get past in order to get to the seating area before being flung by the force of the tube or bus moving.
So the next time you’re travelling I urge you to be more conscious of those around you and be kind enough to offer your seat to someone who looks like they might appreciate it, especially if you’ve taken a priority seat - please be alert and ready to offer it at every station.
There’s no need to feel that you might offend someone – the worst they’ll say is no.