, , ,

I just had to post this.

We have a step forward in access.

This evening I was on a Greater Anglia train out of Liverpool Street when it began to run slow. We didn’t actually do the dreaded grinding to a halt thing, but just inched forward for a while.

Even more amazingly, there was an announcement, and as regular travellers will know, that feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere not knowing what is going on is all too familiar.

Let’s ratchet up the amazement factor a notch as I understand the announcement quite clearly. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay. This is due to a slow train ahead.”

Then I did a double-take. The little dot matrix carriage screen which has a scrolling display of all the stops, and which is timed to display the text of the standard We are now approaching X announcements as they are played, was displaying the same ad-hoc announcement.

At this point the amazement is so great I nearly faint.

I’ve been banging on about this for years. The technology is there. Companies have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to provide the same service to their disabled customers. So why hasn’t it happened before? I’ve pointed out time and again that backing up announcements by text doesn’t just make them accessible to deaf people, it means everyone understands even when the PA system is distorted (which, let’s face it, is 99.9% of the time), and it helps those who may not have English as their first language. Everyone wins.

And during delays and in case of emergency, it’s a vital asset. There are, after all, a number of situations for which the text can be prepared in advance to a certain extent: we are delayed because . . . /there has been a fatality on the line . . . /the train will now arrive at . . .in x minutes/1 hour/only when everyone has lost the will to live requiring only limited changes at the point of use when required.

You may, of course, have the more esoteric incidents when delayed because of sheep on the line, as happened to me once on the very picturesque Barnstaple-Exeter route, but you can still convey the delay and its anticipated length, even if not always the precise cause.

I hope we’re seeing the start of something here. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wish I’d thought to take a photo with my mobile . . . I was just too flabbergasted. If I see it again, I will!