TFL's poster campaign
Epilepsy featured as part of Transport For London's poster campaign to raise awareness of the priority card scheme encouraging travellers to give up their seat for those with invisible disabilities.
Transport for London (TfL) first launched its priority seating initiative in 2016, trialling a badge and card to show that people with hidden disabilities, such as epilepsy, may require a seat on the tube, train or bus.
Now the scheme has been backed with a network-wide poster campaign, including Epilepsy Society's very own 'poster boy' Tom Ryan-Elliott who has epilepsy. So every day this week (week commencing 23 April 2018), there will be posters across all stations and platforms, alongside the tube escalators and in bus shelters.
And with four million tube journeys and eight million bus journeys made each day across London, TfL is confident that the campaign will have a wide reach, raising awareness that not all disabilities are instantly visible. As well as epilepsy, the campaign is focusing on a range of hidden disabilities and conditions incuding cancer, visual impairments, anxiety, Aspergers and pregnancy.
Epilepsy Society's 'poster boy' Tom, 27, has simple focal seizures which often progress into convulsive seizures. Although his seizures only usually last a couple of minutes, he is often mistaken for being drunk.
Tom knows that sitting down on a train or tube can help to avert a seizure, but because his disability is hidden and he is an otherwise healthy young man, he feels people don’t understand it when he sits in a priority seat. A badge or card helps to communicate the fact that he has a hidden disability.
Tom said: "I am lucky that I live in London so get a Freedom Pass to travel on the buses, tubes and trains that come under Transport for London. Generally I'm ok travelling, but sometimes on the buses people ask me to get up if I am sitting in the priority seats. That's the trouble with a hidden disability, especially when you are a young man. Older people in particular ask me to get up and most of the time I do but there are times when, if I think I might have a seizure, it really helps to sit down.
"I was really pleased to be asked to be a part of the TfL 'Please offer me a seat' campaign. I went down to Stratford Tube where I was photographed and filmed talking about my experiences with travelling with a hidden disability. I hope it will help to make things better for others."
Read Tom's blog where he talks about how epilepsy affects his life.
Reluctance to ask about disabilities
Clare Pelham, chief executive at Epilepsy Society, praised the initiative, supported by the Mayor of London: "I hate to take up a seat on a bus or tube when someone else who needs one is standing up. But – like many other people – I don’t always spot them. And it can be excruciating to ask. That’s why TfL’s ‘please offer me a seat’ badges are so great.
"Many people with epilepsy rely on public transport. Especially because they are unable to have a driving licence if their seizures are not controlled by medicine. But no-one can tell who has epilepsy on a train or bus. And the stress of standing up in a crowded compartment or bus can trigger a seizure for someone with epilepsy.
"So the simple act of giving up your seat can literally make someone’s day. It can be the difference between arriving safe and well at work, and spending the morning at A&E with a head injury following a seizure.
"Please do something great for someone today, and give up your seat to a person with a hidden disability.” Apply for a 'please offer me a seat' badge or card
Our campaigns team lobby government and decision-makers on the issues that matter to people with epilepsy. From safer medicines for pregnant women to the dangers of online harm, and from medicines supply to public transport access, we raise awareness of the daily challenges facing people with epilepsy – putting your needs at the heart of what we do.
We have worked alongside other charities to raise awareness of the risks associated with pregnant women taking sodium valproate and have campaigned in support of the recommendations made in First Do No Harm.