This Monday saw Transport for London (TfL) launch the trial of a new badge to help disabled passengers and those with hidden conditions, illnesses, and injuries to access a seat on public transport.
Similar to the popular “Baby on Board” badges, the new “Please Offer me a Seat” badge will be trialled for six weeks to assess its usefulness for passengers and to gauge the reactions of others.
As well as a blue badge to alert fellow passengers of their need for a seat on public transport, those taking part in the trial will also receive a card to display to TfL staff. A successful trial period will see the badge made available more widely later in the year.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan spoke positively of the campaign:
`We hope that these new blue badges can make a real difference to those who find it difficult to get a seat when they need one, particularly those with hidden disabilities. Everyone who travels around London knows about the success of the Baby on Board badges. I want Londoners to embrace our new trial and help these blue badges become as instantly-recognisable, giving confidence to those wearing them on public transport across London.’
A brief scroll through the reactions to Sadiq Khan’s message indicates an encouragingly high level of support for the idea. Lots of commenters with hidden disabilities have described the difficulties they face on public transport and feel the new badges will make it far easier to access a seat – especially at rush hour.
Several people discussed how having no visible illness or condition often saw their requests for a seat met with contempt and welcomed the new campaign as a result. One commenter even stated that this new initiative would encourage them to start using the tube for the first time in years.
Others pointed out that some passengers worry about offending those who are standing by offering them a seat and that the new badge would help to combat this.
However some scepticism remains. Many argued that the Baby on Board badges are ineffectual and doubt the effectiveness of a similar scheme. This is mainly attributed to passengers being distracted by their phones, but there is also a suggestion that some purposefully ignore the badges.
As a result, several commenters advocated further education alongside the new campaign, with some suggesting a “please ask for my seat” badge to tackle the problem from both sides.
From our perspective at Age UK London, we are encouraged by the potential of the “Please Offer me a Seat” badge and look forward to viewing the reaction throughout the trial period. The new initiative should make travelling around London a far more pleasant experience for a number of older people, especially if – as promised – TfL promote the badge effectively through customer information and social media.
A potential downside of the scheme could be that seats are only offered to older passengers that are wearing a badge, but it seems best to approach the trial with an open mind at this earlier stage.
We welcome any research and consultation into improving travel experiences for older Londoners and are very much interested in viewing the results of this trial period.
So, keep a look out for the new blue badges over the next few weeks, and for more information on TfL’s new seating card and badge, TfL’s Travel Support card or any other accessibility initiatives please visit www.tfl.gov.uk/accessibility