A change.org petition has called on Victorian officials to help people with invisible disabilities get a seat on public transport using priority badges.
The petition was started by a 25-year-old Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferer who has been avoiding public transport in peak times because her debilitating illness prevents her from standing during bus and train journeys.
Sara Gingold’s petition calls on Public Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan and the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, Martin Foley to support people with invisible disabilities through extending priority seating to them.
Currently, priority seating exists for the physically disabled, pregnant, parents with small children and the elderly.
However, according to Deb Hileman from the Invisible Disabilities Association, there is a long list of invisible disabilities that can impact on a person’s ability to stand for extended periods of time.
She explains that “Invisible disabilities can range from chronic pain, brain injury or illness, chronic illnesses such as MS, Lupus, Lyme disease, and many, many others.”
Sara’s petition wants Victoria to model the London Badge Program that is currently being trialled by Transport for London (TFL), in order to make public transport inclusive for everybody.
She hopes that if a trial is completed in Victoria and public transport badges are implemented, people with invisible disabilities will not have to worry over how to get to and from their appointments or use more expensive forms of transport like Uber’s and Taxi’s.
The idea of badges for invisible disabilities has been around for years and Sara believes it is time for them to come to Victoria.
In 2003, Nobuyo Shirai, a Japanese activist who is registered as disabled due to a heart ailment established a non-profit organisation that creates badges for people suffering from heart impediments.
The badges were designed for use on public transport in order to get priority seating and raise awareness of invisible disabilities like Shirai’s.
Sarasa Ono, a Japanese author also created an invisible disability badge in order to raise awareness of people with invisible but debilitating conditions. She claims it generated a great deal of interest and sales.
Sara explained that some people may feel uncomfortable wearing an invisible disability badge in a public place. The alternative to a badge is an invisible disability card issued by the government that travellers can show passengers if they require a seat.
Sara believes it is important to give people options and promote awareness of invisible disabilities.
” A badge will help people too shy to ask, become visible. A card can help those who don’t want to wear a badge (but) still get a seat. There also needs to be a public awareness campaign to increase general knowledge about invisible disabilities.”
Jeanne Hartley travels to and from work using public transport every weekday during peak travel times and believes badges for commuters with invisible disabilities are a good idea.
“That’s a great idea! I’d have no issue with giving up my seat to someone with an invisible disability” Jeanne said.
According to The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), “88% of disabilities are invisible.”
Additionally, the NDIA said that the proportion of people suffering from some form of disability is growing due to Australia’s ageing population.
People with invisible disabilities are not isolated to Victoria and statistics show that an increasing number of Australians all over the country, live with invisible disabilities.
Sara says that she gets stared at when she rushes to a seat on a busy train as she is visibly young and healthy.
“A badge can help make an invisible disability visible,” she said.
You can view Sara’s petition below and if you support getting people with invisible disabilities a seat on public transport, sign and share the petition on Facebook, Twitter or via email.