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Invisible illnesses: ‘Please offer me a seat’ badges aren’t just for pregnant women

Back in the summer of 2016, a new trial began that enabled those with ‘invisible’ illnesses or disabilities to wear a blue badge, signalling to other passengers that they may be more in need of seat. The aim of the 6-week trial was to make people more aware that just because someone doesn’t appear to have a disability or illness, doesn’t mean that they aren’t suffering.

A similar scheme, which saw pregnant women offered ‘Baby on Board’ badges, has been a success, and now Transport London is keen to address issues surrounding people with a disability, people suffering from a chronic illness, or those going through treatment.

More than 1,000 people took part in the trial, with great results. They found that their journeys were easier and more straightforward and that they felt more confident in asking for a seat. Almost all of the participants stated that they would recommend the badge or card for anyone who may require it.

In December 2016, it was decided that the blue badge scheme would be rolled out on a permanent basis, starting spring 2017.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated at the time that: “It’s great news that next year we will be able to offer them to all those with hidden disabilities and conditions, and I’m really looking forward to the blue badges becoming as recognisable on public transport as our hugely successful Baby on Board ones.”

Many people with a disability or chronic illness can feel isolated and less independent; implementing the blue badge scheme can offer some level of independence. An important part of this system is to also ensure that more vulnerable people don’t feel the need to explain themselves as to why they are wearing the badge. Acceptance and understanding from other tube users is a vital part of the success of this scheme.

Although the badges and cards are a fantastic start, there’s still plenty more that needs to be done to increase the awareness of invisible illnesses and disabilities. The chair of Transport for London, Alan Benson, has said that: “While this will help many customers, there will be those who don’t want to use a badge and card. We want to see those people supported too, and for everyone to get a seat who needs one.”

By raising awareness of this issue, perhaps even without the badges, more and more tube users will be willing to give up their seats when they are asked to.

We’d also like to see other transport providers adopting similar schemes.

For more information on the blue badge scheme, take a look at the Transport for London website.

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