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TfL Please offer me a seat badge

Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
Last summer I was contacted by Transport for London and a TV company about doing some secret filming and trialling their 'Please offer me a seat' badges.  

The ‘Please offer me a seat’ badge and card for people who find it difficult to stand when using public transport. The badge and accompanying card were created following requests from customers who struggle to get a seat, as their need is not immediately obvious. The badge and card remove the awkwardness of customers having to explain their need for a seat to others. 

I wasn't that confident that these badges would work, after all London tubes are not the friendliest places on earth and most people don't even make eye contact let alone look to see if you are wearing a badge!

I have a chronic illness called Ulcerative Colitis, I have a permanent ostomy bag and symptoms of my impairment are extreme fatigue, joint problems as well as the odd bag leak.  From the outside, it is very difficult for anyone to see that I have an impairment yet there are times when I struggle to walk, stand and the anxiety of these things can make it really tough to even leave the house!

And so I boarded the tube with a team hiding at the other end of the carriage filming me and the people around me.  I stood on the busy carriage with my badge attached to my jacket and waited.  I didn't have to wait long, within a minute a man waved to me and offered me his seat that I gratefully accepted, after a minute or two I spoke to him and the camera crew came in, I asked why he had offered me his seat. He said he noticed the badge and thought at first it was the pregnancy badge, then he saw it simply asked for a seat and he assumed that I must have some need to sit. We thanked him and moved on.

For the next two hours we got on tube after tube after tube and every single time, I was offered a seat almost immediately.  I was genuinely gobsmacked! 

One man who was standing but saw my badge nudged a seated person and pointed at my badge and they jumped up offering me their seat apologising they hadn't spotted the badge before.  They all said that the badge was a good thing and would make them realise that the person wearing it probably had some sort of illness or impairment and needed extra support.

There was not one journey in that time that I wasn't offered a seat.  Men, women, children, older people, all saw the badge and offered to let me sit in their place.  I was expecting that a few people would take notice but I was amazed that it had a 100% success rate for my trial.

Last autumn, TfL held a six week trial with 1,200 people to test the new badge and card. More than 72 per cent of journeys were found to be easier as a result of the badge, and 98 per cent of people taking part said they would recommend it to somebody who needed it.

As a result, they are now introducing the ‘Please offer me a seat’ initiative permanently. The free badge and card are now available through their website or by calling them on 0343 222 1234. 

There are no qualifying criteria - applicants do not need to provide a GP’s note or their medical history. The badge and card can be used across the network, on London Underground, London Overground, Buses, Docklands Light Railway, TfL Rail, Trams and River Services. 

I think the badges are a marvellous idea, I would generally be too embarrassed, too uptight and well, too British to actually ask someone to give up their seat for me! I would assume they would question me and I would have to answer personal questions to a stranger if I asked and so these badges give an easy to understand request that isn't pushy and in my opinion, help to end that awkward feeling of needing help but not wanting to ask.  The fact that I had such a positive experience really made me feel more positive about society and more confident in travelling around London on public transport.

If you want to apply for a badge, head to the TfL website here. What do you think about these badges? Would you use one? Would it help your confidence in travel? Let us know your thoughts now.

Senior online community officer


  • Nystagmite
    Nystagmite Member Posts: 603 Pioneering
    edited April 2017
    Useful. But you can only get one if you live in London. I visit London regularly and this would be so useful.

    Even when I've travelled with my mobility cane, I've had no-one offer me a seat.
  • Markmywords
    Markmywords Member Posts: 419 Pioneering
    I've noticed that BBC Newsbeat is running a piece which found opposite results.
  • rachelcl
    rachelcl Member Posts: 31 Connected
    @Nystagmite I don't live in London but TfL have told me I can apply for one (which I did yesterday). I have an Oyster card and I think you can apply if you are an Oyster card holder. I'm also applying for one of Southeastern Railway's priority cards.
    I've found over the years that some people, particularly pensioners, can be a bit nasty about disabled people using priority seats and these badges / cards may not always help with this.
  • iza
    iza Member Posts: 488 Pioneering
    Hi @Sam_Scope, great article and great photos. 
    Yes , well done to the idea of badges. 
    I think they will really work out. 
    People get use to attention to previously offered badges related to pregnancy and the like the meted of being inform of need to seat with out verbal request. 

    Fantastic idea. 

    Have a great weekend too. 


  • bendigedig
    bendigedig Member Posts: 254 Pioneering

    Kudos to you and TfL.  Perhaps the government could work on a code of practice for other public transport providers to follow suit throughout the UK.  Its a shame that its needed really.  Nevertheless nobody could be blamed for not seeing an "invisible disability". Fair play Sam, you look like you could hold your own in the rush hour ;). Nobody would know what you have to contend with :(

    I'm also an Irish Citizen so I dont suffer with quite as much of the stereotypical Britishness that you drew attention too in your piece there :) Perhaps the Irishness cancells it out or somthing?

    Maybe thats a Southern thing though,  that thing you refered to?  In the North of England, in Wales and Scotland my experience makes me believe that the further away from London you get and the "Home Counties Culture",  people are often warmer and more accommodating. (Speaking VERY generally)

    Its like anywhere though.  You get selfish blinkered behaviour everywhere in the world..  Whats great,  is that your experience clearly demonstrates that the milk of human kindness hasn't completely dried up,  in spite of the example set by our glorious leaders and the champions of industry :)

    There is hope for the world isn't there?  I know what you mean about the London Transport System (London in General really). I think people, when they are on the busses and the tubes resort to a conditionned reflex response and go into "tube mode"  

    As an infrequent visitor to London, I like to talk to people on the tube etc. And smile at them.  I'm sure that this behaviour is seen as weird (its as likely a way of getting a seat vacated as a blue badge in some cases).  I think that its good to challenge stereotypes, isnt it?  After all, with ASD I'm not supposed to smile at people and make conversation with strangers.  In the eyes of most healthcare profesionals this is uncharacteristic behaviour!  

    Lets hope the spirit of the TfL blue badge scheme gains a conditioned reflex respnse treatment.  I for one would certainly give up a seat for a badge wearer.  Although I wouldnt discriminate against sombody not wearing one who I felt needed a seat too :)

    i have only one concern.  It only really just occurred to me.  Some unscrupulous people may use this identity badge to identify "easy targets" for petty crime etc? Dont want to be a party pooper but it could be a valid point.
  • Justice
    Justice Member Posts: 206 Pioneering
    @Sam_Scope  well done Sam, it takes some guts putting yourself in the front line like that, even with a camera crew discreetly in tow. I heard something about this on the radio the other day, think it was on Women's Hour. It's a great idea, and I am pleased you found it a positive experience. I wonder why it is just a London thing, surely it is something which could easily be applied in any part of the Country.
  • sugersuger123456
    sugersuger123456 Member Posts: 2 Listener
    Great that's just what's needed as my friend lives in London and is some times ready to drop and has stick but nobody ever wants to give him seat  So yes to the cards x 

  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger

    I've noticed that BBC Newsbeat is running a piece which found opposite results.

    Im really surprised! I can only comment on my own experience that was 100% positive!
    Senior online community officer
  • Markmywords
    Markmywords Member Posts: 419 Pioneering
    That's all anyone can do @Sam_Scope . Only time will tell.
  • Neal
    Neal Member Posts: 2 Listener
    My experience was mixed. (As a young man who does not appear to have an impairment, I wasn't surprised)

    I found that women were more likely to offer me a seat. Men would just stare in confusion.

    The biggest impact it has is giving me the confidence to sit in a priority seat, without fearing getting into a debate about my needs.

    I'm hoping with the publicity campaign my experience will improve.
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
    Someone said to me when I was trialling it that they thought women would be more likely to get a seat than a man wearing the same badge and I thought it was an interesting idea.  

    Im really glad to hear that it is giving you more confidence though, no project like this will be perfect straight away but I hope that as it becomes more well known that it will be an aid to many people.
    Senior online community officer
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
    Senior online community officer
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
    Senior online community officer
  • Geoark
    Geoark Member, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,375 Disability Gamechanger
    I think that there are a number of reasons why schemes like this start in London compared to other parts of the country. The main one being how the transport infrastructure is managed. While there are different companies running the different services, and in some cases the same services we have an umbrella organisation who are responsible for overseeing them, set most of the fares and so a single organisation to focus campaigns for things like this on.

    I pay for a monthly pass which enables me to use buses, trams, tubes and trains within a defined areas of London, expensive because it needs to include central London. Schemes like this can be rolled out across all these services in one go without having to haggle with each provider. Another factor is the sheer number of people using these services on a daily basis and the distances travelled means the impact can be assessed a lot easier and a lot quicker.

    Considering my last experience of using public transport outside of London where I paid for a return ticket in the early evening, found that there was no way I was going to be able to use the return fare as the service in the opposite direction I had already missed the last bus and had to pay again for another route service, on more or less the same route.

    Fortunately a recent move means even during the rush hour I am travelling in the opposite direction to most people and even travelling from the centre of London I usually don't have a problem getting a seat.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,682 Disability Gamechanger
    It's #PrioritySeatingWeek and so we thought we'd share this post again.  What is your experience of public transport? Have you ever had negative experiences on public transport due to your impairment?
    Senior online community officer
  • Misscleo
    Misscleo Member Posts: 647 Pioneering
    Birmingham buses!
    The drivers never let us sit. They leave the stop at 40mph.
    When we get to our stop the driver chuck us round the bus and slam the brakes on. They start moving the bus while we still havs a foot on it so you fly off.
    Id like drivers to have some manners 
  • Misscleo
    Misscleo Member Posts: 647 Pioneering
    How do disabled people get the seat badge?

  • lillybelle
    lillybelle Member Posts: 583 Pioneering
    I’m wondering if people will think this is some kind of trend and eventually loads of people eg- students will be wearing them
    some idiotic people have now started to put assistance dogs leads on normal pet dogs so that they can take them into a shop.
    its obvious that the dog is not trained.
    but if people can do a horrible thing like that, I can see people buying these badges off a market stall soon
  • Misscleo
    Misscleo Member Posts: 647 Pioneering
    Do agree.
    Iv told a few chemist off about selling Radar keys.
    People who buy Radar keys take kids into disabled toilets and let them chuck water on the seat so when a disabled person is getting out of their wheelchair their clothes get wet.
    And worse thetes been pee and human waste on seats and taps. And iv thought some of it is done out of hate crime.



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