Two people at a bus stop

The Government has today announced new measures which it says “will improve accessibility across all types of travel for those with both visible and less visible disabilities.”

This is part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Inclusive Transport Strategy. These measures will include a £2 million passenger awareness campaign and an accreditation scheme for transport operators.

Barriers faced by autistic people

Many autistic people rely on public transport to go to school, work and to visit family. But, as we highlighted in our Too Much Information campaign earlier this year, many autistic people feel so anxious about getting on public transport that they are unable to leave the house at all.

We and our supporters have been calling on the Government to recognise these barriers and make public transport more accessible for autistic people. Thanks to all of you who responded to the Government’s consultation and shared your story with them - and to the 10,000 people who signed our open letter.

This Inclusive Transport Strategy is a step forward, particularly the passenger awareness campaign and accreditation scheme for transport providers. We now need to make sure these measures aimed at all disabled people, fully reflect the experiences and needs of autistic people and their families.

What the Government’s strategy says

The Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy also includes investment in rail accessibility infrastructure, commitments to produce league tables which highlight operators that are delivering the best service for disabled people, and funding for Changing Places accessible toilets at motorway service stations.

The Government will put up to £300 million of funding into extending the Access for All programme, making railway stations more accessible.

Other measures announced today include:

  • a £2 million passenger awareness campaign to increase disability awareness and reduce hate crime on transport networks
  • an accreditation scheme for transport operators to receive formal recognition for positive work to improve disabled passengers’ experiences, such as training frontline staff and senior management on disability awareness
  • £2 million to install Changing Places toilets at motorway service stations, supporting disabled people to travel easily and comfortably on the road network
  • £2 million for audio and visual equipment on buses, so that passengers on almost every bus will know where and when to get off.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:

"There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK who rely on trains and buses to go to school, work and to visit family.

“But many autistic people can feel so anxious about getting on public transport that they are unable to leave the house at all. It's not just the worry about potential delays, cancellations and large crowds. It's also the tuts and stares from other passengers who see someone acting differently, but don’t recognise that it’s because they’re autistic.

"We and our supporters have been calling for the Government to listen to autistic people and make sure public transport is accessible for all.

"The strategy launched today is a step forward, particularly the passenger awareness campaign and accreditation scheme for transport providers. We now need to make sure these measures aimed at all disabled people, fully reflect the experiences and needs of autistic people and their families.

"At the National Autistic Society, we won’t accept a world where autistic people are shut away. Increasing understanding of autism among transport staff and the wider public has to be at the heart of what needs to change. Today’s announcement has the potential to help create a public transport system that works for autistic people."

Transport Accessibility Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Transport is at the heart of how we live our lives. It helps us get to work, stay in touch with friends and family, and access vital services like healthcare and education.

“But for our ageing population and the fifth of people who are disabled, access to transport can be far from straightforward.

“This Inclusive Transport Strategy is the first step in achieving a genuinely inclusive transport network, which meets the needs of all people, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.”

Saskia’s story

Saskia Lupin is a 22-year-old autistic actor and starred in our most recent Too Much Information film. The film demonstrates some of the barriers autistic people can face getting on public transport.

Saskia starring in our Diverted film

Saskia said: “Unexpected changes make me feel anxious, they make me panic, they make me angry but overall I feel confused, like I can’t do anything and all sense of rationality is lost. 

“I am autistic and an aspiring actor so I felt really passionately about starring in this film to help improve understanding of autism. When I watched the film, I got really emotional as for the first time, I felt like people would understand what it feels like to be autistic and experience unexpected changes. 

“Being autistic can feel very lonely and isolating. Even if you are surrounded by a group of people, you feel alone because you feel different and it takes up a lot of energy trying to keep up with social cues. I hope this video will help encourage the public to learn more about autism. 

“It can be something as simple as not staring, or giving me some space that can make life so much easier. I have recently been served in the ticket office at my local station by a really kind man, when he saw how anxious I was about my upcoming journey, he took the time to write out a detailed plan of my route and run me through what I would need to do when I changed trains and alternative routes if something went wrong. I can’t explain how much that meant to me.”