Autism and Public Transport
“Unexpected changes when taking public transport can be overwhelming. 79% of autistic people tell us they feel socially isolated, and for some, the fear of unexpected changes could mean not even leaving the house” (National Autistic Society). The NAS have now launched a campaign to make public transport more autism friendly, so how can TRACK support this and what impact could this have?
Having worked with many younger people on the autism spectrum, I have found experiences of public transport very mixed. Some of the people I have worked with loved the ability to be able to travel away from their home, whilst others would refuse to consider travelling on any other transport than their parent/carer’s vehicle or the taxi which was provided to access school. I must stress again though, that each individual will have their own view on public transport.
What could be done to help?
From compiling the views of people with whom I worked with, one of the key things to be acknowledged by transport providers (especially bus travel) is that from time to time they will be late. Traffic is by its nature unpredictable, but this needs to be made clear on transport timetables, and whilst companies may be reluctant to say they could be late, I think by being honest they would gain more customers.
Many years ago, train companies introduced the “Quiet Coach” where noise was meant to be kept to a minimum, and devices switched off. I think over time due to overcrowding that these coaches have themselves become louder, and also, I have been involved in an incident where a person I was with was asked to remove ear defenders (used to help reduce noise levels) because the train conductor thought they were connected to a device. When I was able to explain this, the situation was resolved, but if I had not been present this situation could easily have escalated. It is important for transport companies to consider the environment they make, and look at small changes which could be made to make these more accessible.
I think the key area is training for staff at all levels, an example from the NAS website shows the need for this “When we both boarded a bus and my autistic daughter held out her concession bus pass. The driver made comments suggesting that my daughter didn't look like anything was wrong with her, and that they seem to give concession cards to anyone” TRACK is able to provide training which is personalised and tailored to the industry, and through raising awareness we can support more people to feel confident in perhaps trying public transport for the first time.
When looking at travel to employment, there is funding available which can help to support transport costs to and from work, and it’s also worth considering arrangements with your employer to look at any changes which could be made to support this.
We believe that with small changes the workplace can become so much more accessible to people who want to work. From my experience the majority of autistic people do not want charity, they want opportunity. Work with us to help a create spectrum of opportunities which will benefit all of those involved.