Please Offer Me a Seat
I am a brain tumour survivor, for that I thank many people, not least my brilliant surgeon and support crew. Whilst I am recovering well, I do still have one or two issues, which means that when I travel on public transport I need to be seated, otherwise I run the risk of ending up flat on my face on the floor, (which would be embarrassing for all concerned) as the bus, or train, lurches, as it invariably does, or stops suddenly, or rounds a corner at an angle askew of the strictly perpendicular. The issue, for me, is balance, or the lack of it – I still have a small amount of the tumour in my brain, left there post surgery, as it was crushing my brain stem and so the medical wisdom is that it can stay there indefinitely as long as it doesn’t cause trouble. The downside is that the tumour impacts on the part of the brain that enables me to maintain my balance. I am slowly retraining my brain, walking is good, pilates also, even a bit of yoga, to overcome this hopefully temporary glitch.
I came across ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’, a widely acclaimed initiative operated by Transport for London, as part of my research for the national brain tumour e-News publication I was publishing in 2018-19. The ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ project is for all people, regardless of the disability, be it permanent or temporary, some assistance in gaining a seat on the bus or train, thereby making their journey just that little bit easier. Fellow travellers have been, in the main, generous in offering me a seat but on the flip-side, some people who require a seat may not be inclined to ask for one, yet if there was some way of letting their fellow passengers know that they’d appreciate a helping hand, it would make all the difference. Some of us, on the other hand, would either not feel the need to wear a badge or feel comfortable wearing one and that’s also okay.
In 2016, Transport for London ran a successful trial of the programme, participants reported that 72% of their journeys were easier as a result of the badge, 86% felt more comfortable asking for a seat, and 98% would recommend the badge to someone who needs it. On April 28 2017, London rolled out a permanent version of the ‘Please Offer Me a Seat‘ programme.
In most instances, it’s not apparent to others that people who need a seat do actually need to sit down. Indeed, according to the National Disability Insurance Agency, 88% of disabilities are invisible. I have had conversations with people in this situation, MS sufferers, cancer patients returning from chemotherapy, people living with chronic pain, people recovering from surgery, people with mental health issues who need a seat just to recalibrate and regain a semblance of control. For some, if not most, it can be embarrassing to have to ask for a seat, when it needn’t be, in fact shouldn’t be. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for a seat, it’s a sign of strength, to feel empowered to ask for a helping hand with this aspect of your life.
But ‘Please Offer Me a Seat‘ is also much, much more than that, the project might also start a conversation about the ways we can go about caring for each other, about raising awareness of people with disabilities that we may not ourselves be aware of.
Disability comes in many forms, most of us know at least one person who may be in a position of living with a permanent or temporary condition that makes standing in public transport difficult. Transport for London even very kindly sent me some of their badges. ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ represents a small component in helping us all to live in community.
‘Please Offer Me a Seat‘ has the support of the Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, my local Council Mayor, my local State Member of Parliament, the Minister for Disabilities and a number of other members of parliament. Unfortunately, the one member of parliament, whose opinion matters the most, the NSW State Minister for Transport, has, to this point, rejected my proposal, citing peoples reluctance to wear a badge. So, I created a survey in the hope that I might prove him wrong and to hopefully convince him to reconsider. Whilst this project will require much planning, including an awareness campaign, it’s a project whose time has come, making a contribution to having a conversation about living with a disability. ‘Please Offer Me a Seat‘ represents a small component in helping us all to live in community. Besides, I promised the lady with Leukaemia, returning home from treatment, who I shared a bus ride with, that I’d try.