In the summer holidays I signed up for a new TfL scheme trial- Please offer me a seat. The scheme followed passenger feedback from TfLresearch that found that those with hidden disabilities and conditions can find it difficult getting a seat especially if the need isn't obvious.
As someone who has always found travelling more of a challenge because of dyspraxia and anxiety but never been the most socially confident or assertive about my needs I thought it might help with that a bit so worth a try. Although I can stand and have developed coping strategies from when I was first diagnosed aged 4. I still find managing to stand whilst on moving transport for a long time whilst trying to get my balance and co-ordination challenging. I also find standing for long amount of time can be quite painful on my feet and I shuffle from one to the other. Then there's spatial awareness of being aware of where I am and my belongings are in relation to other people, alongside anxiety from being around lots of people and new and unknown places and I've always hated the feeling of being trapped in a lot of people, causing an anxiety attack so always try and get a seat as close to an exit as I can.
I find London travel to be that little bit more jerkier than public transport back home up North and bus drivers like to speed off before you're sat in your seat which can make you loose your balance easier. In the past I've found I've not had the most positive experiences with travel. People thought I was bumping into them on purpose, or holding them up to annoying or wondering why I needed to sit in a priority seat as my need wasn't that obvious.
Two years ago I got the opportunity to write a blog for Scope about travel challenges those with dyspraxia and anxiety can encounter. I've never been someone who has liked any fuss or attention drawn to me, due to to social anxiety and always thought that there were others who had a need more significant to mine. There still is quite a long way to go raising awareness of invisible disabilities, differences and conditions and getting people to understand what dyspraxia is. But as someone passionate about raising awareness of issues invisible to the eye and who has always been willing to learn and find new ways of trying to help myself I thought I'd give it a try.
In honestly I've been very pleasantly surprised, on quite a few occasions I've been offered a seat and I even had one lady appologise that she hadn't seen my badge soon enough. I did encounter a difficult experience where I was mid panic attack and quite tearful and panicky and a lady asked some other people if I could have their seat and got completely ignored. There has been a few instances like that and I have experienced the odd unhelpful stare. But in general it has made me feel that little bit more hopeful that there are people who want to help, who understand that helping someone doesn't mean a lot of fuss and that there slowly is getting more awareness getting out there, but we still have a long way to go.
It's made me have that little bit more confidence to speak up and assert others about my needs. With the energy I'm saving by having a seat, I can use it in a more positive way to help my students in my job. There are still quite a few other travel issues which I've encountered which will be discussed in a later blog and I've found my travel very challenging anxiety wise. But I'm very grateful to those who have offered me a seat and I hope it gives others who might experience similar difficulties a little bit of reassurance.
If you see someone who might be struggling on public transport you never know what difficulties they might have, you also never know how much they might value you offering them that seat. In my last blog I talked about the value of reassurance. A little bit of kindness can go a long way in life and make such a difference to someone.