Right to life

A team from Bus Users England joined an inspiring workshop in York recently, focusing on the challenges facing people with dementia when it comes to getting out and about.

Staff from Bus Users England including Director, Dawn Badminton-Capps, attended an event in York hosted by groups from the Yorkshire DEEP (Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project). The groups, part of the Dementia Network of Voices, had come from Bradford, Scarborough and York to explore the rights of people with dementia when using public and private transport.

Each group focused on a specific mode of travel – bus, train and the blue disabled badge for a private car – and each group encountered barriers to travel.

The blue badge

Applying online for a blue disabled badge if you have dementia is essentially a non-starter, as one of the first questions you’re asked is how far you can walk. Given that the application won’t necessarily relate to physical mobility, someone with dementia is likely to find themselves instantly ineligible.

The train

Transpennine Trains had only one wheelchair-accessible door on the entire train and were so over-crowded that it was difficult to find a seat. For someone with dementia, the overcrowding and noise would be disorientating and frightening.

The bus

Information at bus stops in West Yorkshire was anything but straightforward. The bus numbers and times were confusing, and there was no way of knowing where the bus was travelling to, or if the passenger was even at the right stop.

What the groups found during their investigations was deeply concerning and clearly needed to change, not only for people with dementia but for many other people who encounter similar barriers to travel. All three DEEP groups have now embarked on a campaign to bring about the changes needed to give more people access to transport.

An online petition is already up and running and the Secretary of State for Transport has been contacted to raise concerns around blue badge allocation. The groups have also met with representatives from Transpennine Trains to ask for improvements to services and they’re working with West Yorkshire Combined Authority to make information at bus stops simpler and easier to understand.

Organisations like Bus Users UK are also being contacted to see what more can be achieved, not just in Yorkshire, but across the country in collaboration with other DEEP groups.

For Bus Users England the event was inspiring and informative, and provided real insight into the difficulties experienced by people with dementia when trying to access transport. The changes these groups will help to bring about will benefit all bus users, whatever their needs may be.

You can see the experiences of three people with dementia trying to make sense of bus stop information in this short film

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