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Making public transport more autism friendly

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Nexus has achieved the Autism Friendly Award from the National Autistic Society. 

Training for frontline employees, detailed guides to support journeys, signage improvements and easily accessible online information are just some of the actions taken by Nexus to become autism friendly across their Metro, ferry and bus operations. 

The Autism Friendly Award is designed to support organisations to provide an autism-friendly environment and inclusive customer service.

Anja Cole, Autism Accreditation Consultant with National Autistic Society, said: “There are lots of small changes business can make that make a big difference to autistic people – from customer information to staff awareness.

“By providing an autism-friendly service, Nexus will play its part in creating a more welcoming environment and make a difference to the lives of autistic people.

Nexus is the first public transport provider in the region to achieve this award. Over 100 frontline Nexus employees, including Customer Service Advisers on Metro, ferry crew and bus station staff have received autism awareness training, which covers the knowledge and skills needed to effectively communicate and support people with autism.

Heather Blevins, Head of Learning at Nexus, said: “Public transport is for everyone, but we know that for some it can be daunting. There’s a lot of ticketing options, it can get very busy, and unfortunately there can be delays and disruptions. All of these could make autistic people reluctant to travel.

“Working with the National Autism Society, we have made some changes which could make a massive difference to customers with autism, including making our services, information and environments more accessible, both in person and online.

“We’ve had positive feedback from the frontline teams who have already undergone the training and it will be great to see them put their new-found knowledge into practice when working with customers who have additional or specific needs.”

Nexus have developed new accessibility guides, to provide autistic people with clear information about Metro trains and stations, bus interchanges and the Shields Ferry. The guides detail what stations, trains, interchanges and ferries will look, sound and feel like, to help them plan their visit and prepare them for what to expect.

In addition to the support offered by National Autistic Society, Nexus is also working with South Tyneside Council to provide additional support through their Special Educational Needs team, including ongoing awareness training for wider groups of employees and new starters.

Six young people with autism have been on a six-week supported work placement programme with Nexus’ bus services team. The students, from Cedars Charitable Trust in Gateshead, enjoyed learning about various elements of the role of bus station area controllers, including timetable monitoring, speed checks, cleaning inspections and customer service.  It is hoped the programme will continue in the future.

Nexus Customer Services Director, Huw Lewis, said: “More than 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic – that’s at least one person on every busy Metro or ferry crossing. Providing an excellent customer experience, to all of our customers, is very important to us. I’m delighted that we have achieved this award from the National Autistic Society, but more importantly, delighted that our front-line teams have undergone this training and are better equipped to support our customers if they need any extra help.”

The National Autistic Society is the UKs leading charity for autistic people. They work to transform lives, change attitudes and create a society that works for autistic people.

Image credit: Nexus

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