New Tube Seats Remind Passengers 'Not All Disabilities Are Visible'

By Holly Brockwell on at

Giz UK's Good Guy of the Day Award goes to Transport for London, whose new designs for the priority seats on the underground go some way to reminding people how to be decent human beings.

The seats are getting new fabric to make them more obviously different to the others, and will be emblazoned with messages like "Someone may need this seat more," "Be prepared to offer this seat," and "Not all disabilities are visible."

Well said, TfL.

The priority seats have been on the tube for yonks, but they don't work especially well because some people don't know (or pretend not to know) that you're supposed to give them up for people who need them more, while others feel awkward asking, and most people are so busy looking at their phones that they wouldn't notice if a woman was literally in labour in front of them.

TfL recently surveyed a thousand passengers and found that a quarter of them "feel awkward" about offering their seat. In our experience, the reason given is usually that they're not sure if a woman is pregnant or just fat, but we've all seen people wearing the official 'Please Offer Me A Seat' badge ignored by the people in the priority seats. Sitting down on a busy tube is competitive, and some people are reluctant to give up their comfort.

A third of people in the same survey said they didn't think they had to give up their seats for someone more needy if they weren't sitting in the priority seat. This is patently ridiculous. Really, there's a person on crutches standing and an elderly person in the priority seat and you're just sitting there, able-bodied thinking "oh well, nothing can be done here"? Incredible.

TfL’s chief customer officer Mark Evers comments:

"While priority seats are highlighted as they are within close proximity to the doors and have assistance poles, we would encourage customers to give up any seat if someone needs it more."

Over 44,000 seat badges have been issued, many to people with invisible illnesses as well as the more obvious ones like pregnancy -- but different fabric or not, people will still have to look up from their own lives to notice someone in need. And isn't that always the problem? [Evening Standard]

Main image: TfL