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Poster campaign raises awareness of epilepsy on public transport

This week, for the first time ever, epilepsy is featuring as part of a high profile poster campaign across London's underground and bus networks.

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. 

Tom in TFL's #TravelKind poster

Tom's epilepsy

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.”

How to apply for a 'please offer me a seat' badge or card

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