Time on public transport – especially the commute – can be sacred. Time when you catch up on podcasts, TV shows or books, in peace. It can also be sacred time to close your eyes and try and clear your mind before a busy day ahead. It’s that in-between-time where the world slows down for a precious 45 minutes as you journey from A to B.
Transport in London is a particularly funny example of this. Although it’s often completely the opposite of relaxing – the crowds, the busyness, the invasive noise and the hellish heat – a lot of people still hold it dear as sacred time to themselves.
And with this comes the infamous hatred of any form of communication; the unwritten rule, the unspoken agreement that you don’t really talk to people that you don’t know, unless you really need to. (Sometimes, not even then.)
It’s a weird space which is simultaneously crammed with people but also leaves you feeling very much on your own. And the downside of this is that many people don’t treat public transport as public anymore – they forget it’s communal, which has led to a decline in people looking up at and looking out for, their fellow passengers.
This makes it especially hard for those living with a hidden disability an invisible illness or experiencing hardship to be assisted when they need it.
Depending on your area, you may have schemes such as ‘baby on board’ and ‘please offer me a seat’ badges in place, which are really great – but what happens when these badges don’t work? And what happens when people don’t look up to see these badges?
|The case of Martha Pugh-Jones, the 18-year-old with ME/CFS who was ‘belittled and humiliated’ for sitting in a priority seat whilst wearing her badge on a First Bus in Bristol, sadly answers the first question for us.|
What’s the next step? Maybe to scan the carriage or bus you are in to see who looks the friendliest, and then approach said stranger in the hope that they’ll move for you. But doesn’t this just seem like a really, really odd solution?
The barriers here are twofold: as someone living with a hidden disability or invisible illness yourself, you’re all too aware that you can’t tell people’s situations just by looking at them, which makes building the courage to choose a stranger really difficult (a very meta problem, in this instance).
The second barrier is that in asking for a seat, you feel obliged to reveal intimate, private information about your life and situation, which you’d rather not have to tell anyone, and immediately open yourself up to judgement, resistance and potential abuse.
And all whilst people are probably eyeballing you, wondering Who is this person that’s speaking to me?!, and in a situation that may have been exceptionally stressful already, as transport stations often are.
It was this realisation that led me to create my Happy To Move For You badges.
Badges for able-bodied passengers to wear to signal to those living with a hidden disability, invisible illness or experiencing hardship that they’ll move if asked, with no further questions.
When you see someone wearing one of my badges, you can go to them and confidently ask them to move out of their seat without having to give any more details.
And when you wear one of my badges, you’re safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken the onus off them, and placed it on you, as I feel it very much should do – as people not living with a hidden disability or invisible illness, we should absolutely be taking on the collective responsibility of looking out for others.
The Happy to Move For You badges are available in blue or in pink and come in a mini size or a regular size. They came about In the summer of 2017, even though I didn’t produce the first one commercially until late 2018.
There was no massive origin tale, no sudden lightning bolt which struck me sideways (though I wish there was, as it would make for an epic story!). One day, they just seemed like the obvious solution.
In fact, the reason I held off for so long in producing them was that I thought the idea was so obvious, I was convinced they’d already been done! Since then, I’ve also launched the magnetic option, for the days when it’s too hot to wear a coat to pin them to.
Sleek design, clear type and bold but readable colourways make them stand out enough for you to notice them when you need them, but not so in-your-face that you won’t want to wear them.
Since February 2019, I’ve sold 250+ badges, and I’m hoping to sell many more as we come into the new decade. I hope they’re an example of how a little idea can make a big change, and how we can all be more respectful and kinder to those we share our space with every day. Could you share the badges with a friend or family member, to spread the word?
Bio: Ellie Kime is the founder of The Enthusiast. She wants to help people harness the power of enthusiasm and be unapologetically enthusiastic about what they love, via tees, talks and more.
She’s also the creator of Happy To Move For You Badges, badges to help those with a hidden disability, invisible illness or experiencing hardship on public transport.
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