Many of us rely on public transport in our daily lives; to get to work, to visit family and friends, pick up groceries and visit the doctor.
For anyone with a disability, travelling on public transport can present a number of barriers; sometimes these barriers mean it isn’t possible to use public transport at all.
Being unable to use such important public services can really limit the quality of life for someone with a learning disability, particularly for those who live alone with limited support.
During the pandemic, increased safety measures and operational changes to buses, trains and taxis have added additional barriers for an already isolated group to overcome.
So how do we make public transport work for people with a learning disability?
While key issues such as step-free access to buses, trains and stations and a lack of accessible toilets remain some of the biggest barriers that people with disabilities face when using public transport, a whole host of new barriers have become apparent since the pandemic began.
For anyone unable who is unable to wear a face covering, the prospect of using public transport can be filled with anxiety. Many people who are unable to wear a face covering have a hidden disability and there is often fear of being challenged by fellow passengers.
To avoid being challenged, it is advised that those unable to wear a face covering have a mask exemption card. There are many different exemption cards that can be downloaded or purchased online.
Below are links to the TFL (Transport for London) and Government exemption cards.
Arriva Buses operate around the Epsom area and have created a poster explaining the new rules and how they will be keeping passengers safe. Before travelling on the bus, take a look so that you feel prepared and comfortable.
All bus operators in Epsom recognise the mask exemption cards so please remember to take yours with you.
If you wish to communicate your support needs discreetly when travelling, the helping hand cardis a useful way to let others know how they can support you.
All train operators and National Rail are signed up to the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. If you have a hidden disability, please wear your sunflower lanyard. This will let staff know that you may like some additional support on your journey.
Mask exemption and social distancing cards are also recognised on trains. Carrying these in your wallet or purse will mean that you won’t forget them!
Taxis and private hire cars require passengers to wear a face covering. It is recommended speaking to the taxi company in advance if you are unable to wear a face covering. Carry your exemption card with you too.
Some private taxis might prefer to receive payment online before a journey or via contactless card payment. Each company will have their own preferences, so please do call in advance so that there are no surprises.
If possible, always sit in the back, furthest away from the driver to keep to social distance guidelines. If you would prefer to sit in the front of the car, speak to the company or the driver in advance.
Visiting London can offer lots of great experiences, but it can be a difficult place to visit for some. Having a disability usually means planning journeys in advance to ensure any additional support needed is available – and with so many stations and routes, this can be particularly difficult in London.
TFL have created a free app that features the fastest routes, quietest times to travel and stations with step free access. The app can be downloaded from Apple store.
At Sunnybank we are always looking for ways to improve the transport experience for our members, particularly in the short-term. There are so many fantastic charitable organisations who work tirelessly to break down those long-standing barriers that have prevented disabled people from using public transport for far too long.
For many of us, shopping is a part of everyday life, a necessity.
For someone with a learning disability, going to a shop can be an experience filled with anxiety, worry, confusion and fear.
Without realising it, many of our local shops are filled with barriers, preventing those with disabilities from accessing the most basic of services.
With the onset of lockdown, new safety measures and ever-changing guidelines, shopping has become a very difficult experience for people with learning disabilities.
Will you support us in #BreakingBarriers?
At Sunnybank, we hope to use our experience to ease the anxiety of our members who feel prohibited from visiting shops, and to guide our local shops and businesses in the small steps they can take to break down these barriers and make their shops and store fronts inclusive for everyone.
Who’s doing it well?
We are delighted to see that some of our local shops and businesses are already making great efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for their disabled customers.
We’ll be sharing examples of local shops doing it well on our social media channels over the couple of weeks so please keep your eyes peeled.
We are delighted to announce that our Sunny Sessions radio show has been funded for a further 12 months. Thank you to the Coronavirus Community Support Fund (distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund) for recognising the great work of the team and the benefits the show brings to the community.
In March we launched our first Sunny Sessions radio show. Our aim was to help reduce isolation during lockdown and to communicate important issues to our local learning disability community. We hoped to keep people connected and uplifted while ensuring that all important Government guidelines were communicated in a way that was easy for our listeners to understand and access.
Several months and many shows down the line, we have built up quite the following. The show has continued to grow each week and we have received lots of positive feedback from our listeners.
We hope to continue connecting with our listeners, providing content especially for the learning disability community.
Before lockdown, our experiences had shown us that people with learning disabilities had to fight harder than anyone else to participate in everyday life.
Before lockdown, our members faced barriers at almost every turn; when shopping, making friends, visiting the GP, accessing the benefits system, navigating public transport, making sense of official letters filled with jargon, to name a few.
Before lockdown, the world often felt unjust and unwelcoming. Something exclusive, only to be enjoyed by those without disabilities.
Since lockdown began, we have been adapting and developing the way in which we support our members. In adapting our services and the way we deliver them, we have been made ever more aware of the additional barriers that someone with a learning disability has had to face during this challenging time.
As lockdown eases, and Government guidance changes frequently, living an uncomplicated and happy life without barriers sometimes feels a very long way away.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. We have also seen a great many ways in which barriers are being lifted. Often, simple changes made by an individual or business can have an enormously positive effect on the life of someone with a learning disability.
As the general public suddenly find themselves in somewhat of an equal footing with the learning disability community – experiencing a life filled with restrictions – a wonderful opportunity has presented itself to see and feel first-hand how these barriers can have a detrimental effect on our everyday lives and wellbeing.
We urge our friends, colleagues, local community and beyond to join us in examining the barriers that are preventing those with learning disabilities from participating in life as they wish to, and to consider making some small changes to create a new and inclusive world for everyone; one where we can all play a valuable role.
Over the coming weeks, we will share practical ways for everyone to become involved and help us break these barriers down.
For those who may be unfamiliar with his story, Simon Rhind-Tutt took the decision to use his time in lockdown as an opportunity to train for an extreme physical challenge on behalf of The Sunnybank Trust.
On 26th July, Simon will walk 40 miles in one day starting from Surbiton in Surrey and finishing in Gravesend in Kent.
Simon has been very busy over the last couple of months, training every day (always adhering to Government guidelines), and has inspired us all along the way.
In his latest video, Simon updates us on his journey so far.
If you would like to support Simon and his ‘Making Miles Matter’ challenge, please visit his JustGiving page.
Sunnybank has kept in touch with its community during the pandemic through regular newsletters, radio shows, craft activities, phone calls, zoom groups and, in some cases, visits.
However, we realise that many of you miss the opportunity to meet up socially in person and to have fun with friends at our many social clubs and activities.
We are continually reviewing the situation but believe that it would be unsafe to re-open our clubs while there is still a significant risk of Covid-19. Particularly at our larger clubs such as Kites.
The safety of our members, volunteers and staff is a priority. In order to create a safe environment at our clubs and activities, we need to consider all risks such as social distancing, the hygiene of frequently used areas such as toilets and kitchens, as well as the deep clean required pre and post an event. This would mean introducing new processes such as reducing attendance numbers, adding a booking system as well as providing PPE, to name a few.
Even after these precautions are met, we believe that the risk of Covid-19 still remains too high to re-open our large face-to-face group activities such as Kites Club.
We may, however, consider activities involving smaller groups in the coming months, as it would be more manageable to ensure everyone’s safety. We will keep you posted on any further developments.
Thank you all for your continued support.
We hope to be back ‘in the flesh’ as soon we can, in the meantime stay safe.
While in lockdown, many of the people we support have no access to the vital services they usually rely on. To help fill that gap, our team have been calling members weekly, and in some cases daily, to chat and make sure they are doing ok.
Each week, members of the Sunnybank team make deliveries to some of our community’s most vulnerable people. This week, Lesley delivered packages containing arts and craft materials and snacks across Epsom and the surrounding areas.
Isolation is something that we’re all learning to adapt to during lockdown. It can be especially difficult to navigate new ways of communicating, shopping, socialising and accessing services, more so for someone with a learning disability.
In a survey by Sense, over half of disabled people reported feeling lonely, rising to over three quarters (77%) for those aged 18-34 (Sense 2017). Loneliness is associated with physical and mental health problems and poorer quality of life (Gilmore & Cuskelly, 2014). Our team have reacted quickly to the ‘new normal’ to ensure our members are supported at every step along the way.
Did you know that as well as calling our members regularly for a chat, we:
have launched a twice weekly radio show especially for our community in collaboration with Surrey Hills Radio
host a selection of Zoom groups every week, including ‘drama group’ and ‘games night’
send members themed activity emails each week
have collaborated with local company Bee Kind Waste to produce weekly accessible craft videos
collate and share helpful Easy Read documents to those who need them
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