Transport for London is urging passengers on public transport to be more considerate of passengers who find it difficult to stand. TfL has launched a Priority Seating Week campaign to highlight the issue - handing out 30,000 'Please Offer Me A Seat' badges to passengers who have conditions which make standing difficult.
In my formative years my dad described life to me as, ‘like a journey on the Northern line. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, there will be delays on the way but it can be done. You can reach the destination of your choice.’
I was born without legs and use artificial ones with crutches to walk – so the irony was at the time he was giving me this life allegory – I wasn’t able to use the tube at all yet.
What we do know about life’s journey of-course is that there will be no seats and yet as a disabled commuter that shouldn’t be the case. We all know where the priority seats are.
They’re the most popular ones for a reason, you only have to sit next to one fellow passenger and have the additional comfort of a screen to rest your head on.
So when I charge into a carriage and survey the scene I’m met with a familiar set up. All the seats are full, with predatory vertical passengers waiting for the priority ones.
Everyone has their heads down and their eyes averted but I know they can sense my presence.
They all know someone with a genuine seat claim has entered the arena. I know they know due to the shifting in the seats, the awkwardness of the game of chicken, who’s going to blink first and offer me their place?
My problem and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, is that unless the offer is immediate 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.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think people are deliberately unkind. I think most people are trying to avoid contact and conversation. I understand this – I’m a Londoner too and I certainly don’t get the tube in order to talk to people I don’t know. That’s probably what stops me from demanding the seat when I first jump on.
However I don’t think I should have to. The signs are clear enough – if you’ve taken a priority seat. Be alert, look up and be ready at every station to offer the seat to whomever has a legitimate claim on it.
I hope this campaign helps make that more likely and as my dad would say; there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It’s a special light and it has a name. For my route home – it’s called, East Finchley.