TfL wants passengers to look up and offer a seat

iStock / MarioGuti

We've all been in that situation on the tube where someone else is obviously more in need of our seat than us, so you give it up to them.

But sometimes you're too busy trying to pretend you're not on your commute, buried in your phone, book or newspaper, to notice that someone else is struggling.

A new underground announcement urges passengers to look up in order to make sure they're not not just doing that.

The 'Look Up' campaign was inspired comedy producer Corry Shaw, a disabled woman determined to change how we commute.

Corry, who suffers from mobility problems and chronic pain, launched the campaign after finding it "incredibly hard to get a seat on public transport", she explained in a Facebook post. She continued:

I wear my ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ badge which TfL provide to anyone who has difficulty standing but I found that people don’t notice it, they don’t even notice my walking aids because they don’t look up.

She added that one "particularly bad" journey, where was "begging to sit with everyone simultaneously staring and pretending not to notice me", left her "sobbing" and "embarrassed":

I had to get off the tube and wait for the next one. My pain physically and emotionally was unbearable.

I was so, so embarrassed and I have never felt more ‘disabled’ than I did at that time. 

In the Facebook post, Cory explains the answers to commonly asked questions about her campaign.

Why not just ask for a seat?

Some people struggle to ask because of past experiences - for example, Corry has previously been "ignored, refused or given abuse".

She also points out that not every disability, writing:

I never ask someone in a priority seat to move in case they are as in need of it as I am.

Others may not be able to ask for a seat, whether due to problems with speech, English not being their first language or visual impairments.

What if I offend someone by offering them a seat?

If you're really unsure, Corry says you can just stand up. She writes:

If the person needs the seat believe me they will jump right in it (or sort of wobble into it if it’s me) and if they don’t need it you can sit back down safe in the knowledge that someone isn’t suffering because you are in the seat.

And if you're offended by someone offering you a seat, "please be polite when you decline because you are making it so, so much harder for people that do need a seat," Corry advises.

Why should I give up my seat? I paid for it.

Corry believes that the "trolls" unwilling to give up their seat "outnumber the selfish people to a huge extent". She writes:

Someone once said there are only two types of people.

Disabled people and people who aren’t disabled yet.

Lets hope that when you are disabled, when you break your leg, when you are elderly you find more people that are kind than people like you when you travel.

Likewise, some people insist that disabled or pregnant people shouldn't travel in rush hour.

Corry has no time for these people:

It is AMAZING how many people think that disabled/pregnant people don’t work or don’t have a life to get on with.

I don’t think anyone would choose to travel in rush hour if they didn’t have to. 

What can I do?

If you're not in London, take the fight to your MP, council or local public transport provider.

You can also Tweet about the campaign with #LookUp and reached Corry at @CorryShawComedy.

Corry also uses the explainer post to establish that she doesn't think that London is rude, and that a small reminder can go a long way in a busy city:

London does have a reputation for being impersonal and avoiding eye contact on the tube is a real thing.

But I don’t think that’s because people are rude.

They are busy, they are tired, they want to complete a level on their game, they want to answer that email, they want to read the book, they want to read the news.

This doesn’t make people bad or rude.

I think a little reminder to look up, a glance at each station or stop isn’t asking the world and I know that some people are already doing it.

It is already making a difference.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:

Having spoken to Corry Shaw about her Look Up campaign, I have been determined to make it a reality on London's transport network.

It's a fantastic initiative, and I hope it helps thousands of people get around London more safely and easily, while increasing awareness of disability among Londoners.

Alongside the success of the 'Please Offer Me a Seat' campaign, the Look Up campaign will be an important part of our work making London's transport system genuinely accessible for everyone.

HT Corry Shaw

More: This message from a pub landlord to a family and a their disabled son is incredibly heartwarming

More: This is what it's like to live with an invisible disability

The Conversation (0)