Everyone has seen the ‘baby on board’ badges on the tube, right? You’ve probably even stood up for someone wearing one. But if I asked you what it means if someone is wearing a ‘please offer me a seat’ badge, would you know the answer?
It doesn’t matter if your answer is no, as I’m pretty sure 99% of people would say the same, or so I’m judging by the lack of knowledge I’ve seen on the tube. The TfL blue badge is a relatively new scheme, first launched as a trial in 2016 and officially in 2017 after it was such a success. The idea is to enable those with long- or short-term illnesses, impairments and conditions to more easily and comfortably use public transport. Its idea is to take away some of the awkwardness of asking for a seat, particularly if you have an invisible conditon, something that can feel incredibly awkward.
So why am I writing about this? A bit of background – I have an ongoing back problem which over the years has got to the point where I find it difficult to stand on public transport for extended periods of time. This is mainly because, being short, I have to either stretch up to the handrail which aggravates the pain, or balance in an aisle which again puts strain on my back. If I do choose to stand for part of my journey, I inevitably end up needing a seat for the next part even on a good day. When I heard about the scheme, I thought it was a great idea – I’d only ever wear the badge when I really needed to, and it would cut out the judgemental looks that put me off asking for a seat when I needed one.
Unfrtunately, there has been hardly any awareness raised about the badge throughout the transport network, and this has led to a few awkward situations when using the badge.
Example 1: A woman decided to loudly announce to the packed tube carriage that I was ‘obviously pregnant’ and ‘needed a seat’ – obviously confusing it with the ‘baby on board’ badge. Someone then stood up while I was trying to explain I wasn’t pregnant and it’s a different badge – shen then sat down again and I had to explain that I did still need the seat. AWKWARD!
Example 2: People are often really helpful in trying to get you a seat (the woman I mentioned before obviously meant well!), and 9/10 people will gladly offer their seat when asked, which I always show I’m really grateful for but others aren’t so forthcoming. Last week, a woman must have asked fellow passengers for me 5 times before someone stood up (and this was after a woman on crutches offered me her seat!!) – incredibly embarrassing as I really didn’t want to make a scene and wanted to melt into the floor by the time I sat down.
I don’t mean this to be a ‘poor me, I can’t stand up on the tube’ post – completely the opposite. I’m writing this to raise awareness of the scheme so others don’t have to face some of the embarrassment that I have when needing a seat. Here are a few things to be aware of on your next journey on public transport if you see someone wearing a blue badge:
1. People will only ever wear them if they are absolutely in need of a seat – I would never ever abuse the fact that I have one of these badges just to get a seat, and only ever wear it on days the pain is flaring up and I physically can’t face standing for my journey.
2. If you see someone wearing the badge – please acknowledge it. I’ve seen seen read the badge then immediately go back to looking at their phone/reading, and it can be hurtful. Even if someone doesn’t ‘look’ injured or ill, it does not mean they aren’t. Invisible illnesses are very, very real and just as painful. Think about it – you would offer a seat to someone on crutches straight away, right? The blue badge is the same as a cast – it means there is an injury.
3. It’s really kind if you see someone wearing the badge to help them to get a seat. Sometimes I don’t always feel confident enough to ask for a seat myself, as I’m sure a lot of other wearers don’t. Other times, I’m smushed onto a tube last minute because someone’s shouted at me to get on (even though I’m waiting for the next one so I can get on first and not have to push through to the seats), so a little help getting through to the seats is hugely appreciated! Anyone who’s done this while I’ve been wearing the badge – I love you!
I hope this has helped people to understand why this badge exists, and what it means to someone wearing one. If you help one person to get a seat on your next journey, know you’re making a huge difference to their day and they’ll be hugely grateful – it makes getting on public transport that little bit easier.
If you have any questions about the badge, or how to get one, drop me a message on any social media, and you can find more information on the Please Offer Me A Seat badge scheme here: https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/please-offer-me-a-seat