A transport system that is accessible for everyone……travelling with dementia

Joanna Ward – TPS Board Member and lead for Equality, Inclusion and Diversity


When we talk about creating an accessible and inclusive transport system, we Transport Planners really do need to go back to basics and understand who we are designing and building the transport system for.

Fundamentality the work of Transport Planners should be about making the opportunity to travel, by whatever mode you choose as easy as possible.

But who can say that they haven’t at some point become fatigued and frustrated by travelling on public transport?

According to Alzheimers Research UK there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, more than ever before and this number is projected to increase over the years to come.

52% of the UK public 34.5 million people now know someone who has been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

1 in 3 people in the UK this year will develop some form of dementia in their lifetime.

The challenges of living with dementia mean that travelling can become a daunting prospect, because dementia affects more than just memory.

Environments that are new, busy, and noisy can become a disorientating place to be, especially when you add into to that interactions to purchase the right tickets and the time constraints of travelling to public transport timetables.

Those living with dementia can easily lose their confidence to travel – the chances of things going ‘off-plan’ too great to cope with.

Particular difficulties can include:

  1. Journey Planning
  2. Technology that is not accessible for everyone
  3. Lack of connected integrated transport
  4. Lack of training for staff
  5. Confusing signage

I have long written about the need for a transport system that is accessible and inclusive for everyone and that includes older people and those living with dementia.

Our transport system and the ability to travel as appropriate for services, work and social activities gives us the freedoms to live full lives, but its not always as accessible as it could be and with an aging population, dementia is just one of the challenges that we are going to face more of in future.

Last month the Alzheimers Society partnered with the Department of Transport to talk about the important issue of making public transport more inclusive for people with dementia.

Their advice which can be found here https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/dft-inclusive-transport-its-everyones-journey has much to say about how we can make travelling and transport a much more user friendly, inclusive and accessible experience for all – in summary:

  1. Be friendly and help.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Be aware of face coverings.
  4. Be prepared to give up a priority seat.
  5. Make space.

Some of this guidance is related to the specific issues that we have face while travelling during the pandemic but most of it really just makes common sense and could make it a nicer experience for everyone (not just those with dementia) and that’s self-fulfilling because the better the public transport experience the more likely people are to use it again.

So its up to all of us Transport Planners and travellers (and that is all of us) to keep asking ourselves ‘A transport system that is accessible for everyone’ – how do we make that happen?



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