I was living in London when I was pregnant with The Baby and took the bus to work every day.
I was fine standing when the bus was crammed, but as my bump grew larger, and then even larger, I still wasn’t offered a seat.
Unlike today, where it could reasonably be assumed that I’m ‘just fat’, back then I was skinny with a, well, huge bump in front of me. Still no offers, despite my sad eyes and forlorn glances at people comfortably sitting down.
So perhaps I am a little sceptical about Transport for London’s new scheme, to aid travellers like me, with hidden health conditions – read the story here. It’s a bit like a blue badge for the Tube.
First, how are you supposed to flag up the fact you’re wearing a little badge on a busy, packed tube on a Monday morning when commuters are doing their London-best to ignore everyone else? Thrust yourself in people’s faces? Sidle up to a nice-looking person and eyeball your badge, hoping they’ll notice? (note to self – this could prove to be a most excellent dating tip – I could make a badge proclaiming, ‘I’ve got MS – Date Me!’).
Second, could I really imagine myself wearing one? I’m British! Will it mark me out as somehow different? Well, yes.
Third, we’re all sceptical people; blue badges for cars are notoriously misused and I doubt these badges will be any different. Plus, as with car badges, there will be the eternal refrain, ‘but you don’t look ill’. Even though it’s all about hidden disabilities, I fear the wider public still has a long way to go before accepting this notion.
And when do you fish out your badge and pin it on? With my dodgy MS hands it could take a while. Do you then unpin it on leaving the Tube station?
Believe me, I love the sentiment and I admire Transport for London tremendously for trialling this.
However, by marking us out as different, I fear we could lurch in to uncharted territory – must we broadcast to an entire Tube carriage that we have a hidden disability? I would far rather ask someone sitting near the exit if I could possibly have their seat and quietly explain why. In my experience with MS, people are really rather nice and understanding.