5 Tips For Using TFL ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ Badge

After a few months wait, Transport for London opened applications for their ‘Please offer me a seat’ blue badge last week. This badge was created for disabled people, in particular, those who invisible conditions and it is a big step towards a fully inclusive London for everyone!

I was fortunate to be one of 1000 participants involved in the trial of the badge. As someone who previously would have rather passed out than ask for a seat, I can say that the badge genuinely changed my life. I’m a very extroverted person, but I personally found it difficult wearing the badge for the first few journeys. After a number of trips, I figured some things out and changed my approach. Since then I have used my badge with total confidence and I thought I would share some of the things I learned: Continue reading 5 Tips For Using TFL ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ Badge


6 Tips For Surviving Christmas in One Piece

Helloooo-ho ho ho! ‘Tis the season for fairy lights, pfeffernusse cookies and mulled wine by the fireplace (or by the heat lamps at the pub)! Those that know me will know that I basically lose my mind for the month of December. I put cinnamon in everything and I make festive puns at every opportunity. With that in mind, I wanted to talk about something that can be easy to forget with all the excitement of the Christmas season. Managing your disability, or helping a loved one to manage, during the holiday season can be a challenge. But there are some easy steps you can take to ensure you can make the most of this fun-filled time of year.

  1. Plan ahead! During the Christmas period, schedules can go totally out the window and time seems to pass in the blink of an eye. It can be easy to forget things like medication and physiotherapy exercises, or put them off until later when you know you’ve got something exciting to go and do. But making time is paramount to surviving the Christmas season in one piece! I live my life by ‘to do’ lists and I find that writing them as soon as I wake up for the day ahead is a great way to ensure I don’t forget anything (or try to avoid it…)
  2. Don’t over commit! Accepting limitations is not something that anyone wants to or should have to do; but unfortunately, it is a fact of life for many of us. I have a very hard time saying no – whether it’s not wanting to disappoint people or being so excited to do the outing/activity that I don’t take time to think about the practicalities – which can get me into some tricky situations over the Christmas period. Overcommitting myself can lead to being overwhelmed, both physically and mentally, which isn’t fun for me or the people I end up having to cancel on. Try to get used to saying ‘Can I let you know later?’, instead of committing instantly. Give yourself that extra time to check your schedule and think about whether you can handle the extra commitment.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up. No one can do everything. Even Clark Kent and Superman need to share the workload! If you do end up with a bit too much on your plate, it can be upsetting to have to cancel or reschedule plans. But try not to be too hard on yourself! Your health must always take priority, there will always be time to make new plans. It may be disappointing, but your real friends/family will understand and won’t hold something like rescheduling some plans against you!
  4. Save your spoons! I am a fiercely independent person and I will often do absolutely everything to avoid asking others for help. But especially around the holidays, swallowing your pride and asking for a bit of help can be the difference between having the energy to go to my evening plans or being so knackered I need to go to bed at 5pm. Pick your battles and ask for help when you need it!
  5. Christmas Day (aka the marathon). Even if you aren’t hosting Christmas, it can be a back-breaking day. Pacing yourself is key to making it through this marathon day. Discuss the plan for the day ahead of time with your family. Factoring in agreed breaks in between travelling, opening presents, lunch etc. can allow you time to rest and recover for the next activity (or the next mince pie!)
  6. Treat yo self! Practicing self-care is something that I am terrible at doing. I work very hard to make sure everyone else in my life is happy and taken care, then I always forget to stop and be kind to myself. When you have a disability, it’s often about pulling yourself up by the boot straps and ploughing on ahead, which means self-care falls by the wayside. Christmas is the time where I try to make an extra effort to take care of myself and my emotions. From stealing a few minutes to do a bit of meditation in the evening or enjoying a long lavish bubble bath, it all makes a difference! Just remember; you deserve it!

This will be the last post until the New Year! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Check back in January for our next guest post.

Lily x

She’s hiding a chronic knee injury.

Today we are hearing from Jenny, who is one of over 10 million Britons suffering from chronic pain on a daily basis. She gives us a unique insight into the life of someone who didn’t suffer from their disability until fairly recently and the long-term prognosis is still an unknown for her.

How old are you? I am 29

Can you tell me about your disability? 

I have a chronic knee injury. I injured my knee over a year and a half ago. It makes standing for more than a few mins and walking hard and painful. I have regular physiotherapy sessions and do up to and hour of exercises at home every day to strengthen my knee and leg muscles, but have had very little improvement. I don’t know when (or if) I am going to get better.

What is your typical journey like (prior to the badge)?

I commute for an hour and a half – two hours from one side of London to the other. I changed my hours to get to work 30 mins earlier to get a seat in the morning and I take a longer route, which adds 30 mins – one hour (on a GOOD day) to my hour and a half journey to get a seat on the way home. Even if I get a seat there is a lot of walking and sometime stairs between trains. Walking downhill is particularly hard so the ramps at my nearest station are even worse than stairs for me. 

What happens if you don’t get a seat? How does this impact your day?

I try and stand on one leg as much as possible (even though my physiotherapist tells me not to as I need to build up the muscles in my knee). Every time I stand for more than a few minutes my knee gets worse. It gets painful at the time and for around a week after it will be painful and swollen meaning it’s even harder to walk or stand.  It will mean I can barely walk for at least a few days after and every step will hurt. If there is space I sit on the floor but there’s often not space to even do that. I often get home on the verge of tears.

Just two weeks ago my train on the way home was delayed and I didn’t get a seat. I tried to stand on one leg as much as possible and I was surrounded by people watching me struggle with tears streaming down my face but no one offered any help or asked if I was ok. When there was space I sat on the floor. My knee is still sore from this incident. 

Are there any visual cues that would signal you need a seat (prior to the badge)? i.e. walking stick, crutches. How successful is this?

No visual clues. Unless they see me trying to stand on one leg, but this doesn’t help. A few times I had blue tape on my knee and up my leg and this helped get me a seat once but that’s it.

How do you feel about the badge trial? 

I’m so happy it’s happening and I don’t know why it doesn’t already exist. I also don’t know why it is just a trial – what if they decide that people are not responsive; then what? Are we supposed to go back to life before the badge? I think it just needs marketing to raise awareness. Personally the badge has been a huge relief and a life-saver for me. I feel more confident asking for a seat and showing my badge than before when I looked like there was nothing wrong with me. I was worried people would question if the badge is real or why I need a seat but so far people have jumped up no questions asked.

A few times I’ve asked for a seat showing my badge and other times people have just given me one – all in rush hour. It’s also connected me to other people going through similar struggles and reminds me I’m not alone in my suffering! It’s also raised my awareness of other conditions and how they impact people.

How do you feel living in London with a disability?

Living in London with a disability can be frustrating, isolating and scary. There are so many fun things to do in London – galleries, exhibitions, festivals, concerts, and exploring new areas; all of which require a lot of standing and walking. So it’s frustrating that I can’t do everything I’d like. It can also be scary. Like I can’t just go out with my friends, I have to think about if there will be a seat there and if there’s not then I won’t go. It can also feel very isolating when you’re struggling to walk and everyone is rushing past you and bashing you around.

What do you think would most surprise those without a disability about the way yours affects you?

Just how life changing it is and how seemingly simple things I would’ve taken for granted are now hard or impossible. Even things like queuing are hard. Also the fact that when I stand for a long time it aggravates my condition and it feels like I’m going round in circles or being able to walk a bit more then standing and making it worse. They say muscle injuries are worse than broken bones as they take much much longer to heal.  

A lot of emotions that I think everyone can relate to in here.  Thanks for sharing your story, Jenny.

Check back next week when we will step into Tina’s shoes for her daily commute.

Lily x

She hides it from almost everyone.

Today we are hearing from a brave lady who, despite the effects of her disability, doesn’t let it stop her from living her life and working her dream job in the city. She wishes to remain anonymous, but is sharing such details about her disability is a huge step to help open the dialogue about hidden disabilities. Thank you contributor!

Q: Can you tell me about your disability? 

When I was born I contracted septicaemia. This damaged my left hip and caused other complications as I was growing up. I had lots of surgery as a teenager. When I was 21, my hip became arthritic and I had a total hip replacement – if I had £1 for every time someone said “oh you’re young to have a hip replacement” I would be able to retire! And now I am nearing the time when I will need this replacement to be replaced! Additionally, as a result of the complications, my lower spine is disintegrating – there is nothing that can be done about this. The most recent issue for me is nerve damage in my left foot, creating a loss of feeling in it. This has meant that I have been working at home for the last three months, as I cannot travel on public transport.

Q: What is your typical journey like (prior to the badge)?

My typical journey would be very stressful, so I avoid travelling at peak times when possible. People have pushed me out the way to get to a seat, and pregnant women ask me to give up my seat (which I would do). At really bad times, I have just stopped and tried to work out whether I could get someone to come and pick me up from Central London but my family works and they support me a lot anyway. Sometimes I get to travel with my husband which is great. Even if I don’t get a seat, he helps me and always tries to stop people pushing me about. This year the traveling got too much for me, hence working at home. It’s really important for me to be able to keep working.

Q: What happens if you don’t get a seat? How does this impact your day?

It’s just about getting through the day, dealing with tiredness, stress and pain. It gets you pretty low when every day is like this. I also walk slowly and people are not shy about being impatient and pushing me out of the way. It doesn’t just impact on my day. It impacts on my husband’s too as he has to look after me, drive me around and look after himself.

Q: Are there any visual cues that would signal you need a seat (prior to the badge)? i.e. walking stick, crutches. How successful is this?

None. I work very hard to make sure that people can’t tell I have a disability. So I check in with people to make sure that I am not limping, for example.

Q: How do you feel about the badge trial? 

I think it’s fab idea. I emailed TfL some years ago to ask if they would do this, or where they planning to do this. Their answer was ‘no’ on both counts, so to see a complete turnaround is great. Personally, I am a little apprehensive about wearing the badge as I am extremely private about my disability.

Q: How do you feel living in London with a disability?

I have so many reasonable adjustments in my life that it wouldn’t matter where I live, they would be the same. I have used public transport much more than ever since I moved here 13 years ago. For a long while I avoided working in Central London but I had no choice when my dream job came up at London Bridge. This year I have to come to terms with the fact that my body will not always do what I want it do, and to come up with different ways of doing things.

Q: What do you think would most surprise those without a disability about the way yours affects you?

That I work extremely hard for people not to know that I have a disability. It is a constant stress for me that people might find out. Only my immediate family, my husband, my best friend, and my manager at work know. Culturally for me, there are still some disgusting attitudes to disability. I have heard people within my outer social circle describe disability as a “defect”. I won’t expose myself to that in my own home or socially. This is what I like about the trial – I can do my bit to try and raise / change people’s awareness but with some relative anonymity. Wearing the badge, for me, is a huge step but I don’t think I could go any further than that right now.

A huge thank you to this brave contributor! A brief snapshot into the daily commute of someone with a hidden disability and the struggles she goes through.

Check back next Friday for another profile.

Lily x