Travel training

My local authority is reviewing the cost of providing specialised transport for disabled adults and children. This is quite a widely reported issue nationally, as it affects vital transport links for people on the spectrum, especially those having to travel long distances to use support services and day centres.

One clever wheeze my local council has come up with is that they are going to train people with learning disabilities or autism how to travel independently by bus or train.

Yep, if you haven't heard this idea before, if my council are pushing this, sure enough lots of councils will be trying the same thing.

Seems they haven't factored in change. If the bus route changes. If the train leaves late or there's a confusing on train announcement. If the driver of the bus doesn't understand the difficulty. If rail staff (who still believe you have to give 24 hours notice if disabled) aren't sympathetic.

The message needs to be got across to local government that this new idea has limitations - it wont work if it just has to be done locally with individual daft councils. Is this something NAS is addressing nationally?

I've been to a meeting on this today, which is why these things are upprmost in my mind, and I've heard some astonishing aspects of travel. People with epilepsy or diabetes or other conditions who collapse on trains or on station platforms are being charged fare penalties for not getting on or off the right train. There appears to be no training at all of rail staff about epilepsy or diabetes.

I can understand the difficulties though. I was on a late night limited stop train a few years ago and there was a passenger who was behaving very disturbedly and drunkenly, groaning and falling about. With other passengers avoiding him I went over and asked what the problem was. Turned out he was diabetic and desperate for sugar or something. I had a bag of sweets on me and gave them to him. That seemed to set him right.

It amazes me how vulnerable people with disabilities can be on public transport.

On another occasion, on a train pulling out of a station, the wrong announcement came over, saying "this train terminates here, please leave the train". Someone with learnining disability or something, I never found out, got into a frenzy because he thought he was on the wrong train, and couldn't be calmed. And it was left to passengers as there was no sign of a guard.

So for local authorities to come up with the clever saving, oh we'll teach disabled people how to go by bus or train. It is truly tragic how badly served we are.

  • Hi Longman.  This reminds me of an incident my son (who has aspergers) had in the summer.  He decided that he wanted to visit a friend and would like to try using the train.  We decided that Sunday (being a quiet day) would be best.  We spoke to the staff about his condition and were told that it would be best to let the guardsman know on the day.

    Unfortunately no-one told us that the train only stays at the station for 2 minutes!.  I had to run to the end of the platform with a very confused panicked teenager running after me.  I barely had a chance to speak to the guardsman before the doors closed.  My son was standing on the platform now in total confusion.  The guardsman gestured that he get in NOW via the guards door, which he did.  As the train pulled out of the station I saw my son just standing in the aisle looking totally lost. There was nothing I could do.  After a short while I phoned him.  As it turns out the guard recognised that my son needed some support and looked after him for the remainder of the journey. 

    I think that because it was a quiet day the guardsman was able to offer this support.  If it had been a week day and therefore busier I dread to think how it would have turned out.