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Mother says her son with autism was ‘mocked’ by rail staff after asking about an earlier service

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Aeolienne

(Not written by me)

 

Mother says her son with autism was ‘mocked’ by rail staff after asking about an earlier service

Sarah Hilary said her son was becoming stressed at Paddington station in London and had hoped they might be allowed on an earlier service 

 

Josh Barrie

Wednesday October 24th 2018

 

A mother claimed she and her son, who has autism, were “mocked” by Great Western Railway staff at Paddington train station after she asked whether they might be allowed on an earlier service. 

Sarah Hilary, a crime novelist, said she had booked to travel on the 6.20pm train from London home to Bath but her son, 17, a vulnerable passenger, was struggling. 

“They were accusatory and it felt like they were mocking me and my son”

Ms Hilary said he can become overwhelmed on a sensory level in places such as hectic train stations. Given he carries a disabled person’s railcard, she hoped GWR would allow them both to start their journey early and avoid any upset.

She said to i: “They [staff] acted like gatekeepers, they were intimidating and belligerent, and it seemed like they were trying to save GWR profits rather than support customers, which is their job.

Nervous and upset 

“They were accusatory and it felt like they were mocking me and my son. It was bullying. They were acting like they thought we were ‘pulling a fast one’ and I was only asking to have some flexibility to get a freebie. 

“It distressed my son and he was visibly agitated and nervous. He doesn’t react well to these situations and hates confrontation. I showed them his railcard, but they just scoffed. 

“When I explained my son was autistic, one of the men said, ‘yeah, so’s mine’. If he is, I’m worried for his son, given the way he is. 

“I’ve never been treated so badly. It was horrible to experience, especially in front of other passengers.” 

Ms Hilary, who shared her and her son’s experience on Twitter, said she felt “humiliated” by the ordeal. 

Complaint 

After complaining at the ticket office, she was eventually allowed to change trains and was put on an earlier service. 

“I explained the situation and they were quite dismissive”, said Ms Hilary. “I didn’t receive any apology after I said I would like to complain – they just stamped our tickets and allowed us on an earlier train.” 

Ms Hilary said the carriages were incredibly busy and she thought her son “might collapse”. She took him to 1st class, and added that the train manager on board was “very gentle, kind, and understanding”. 

After taking her complaint to GWR head office, the novelist said senior staff at the rail company were helpful, offered her a refund on her journey, and free tickets on a future fare.

Investigation 

But she also said the experience really affected her son: “He told me afterwards, ‘mum, if that happens again, just sit me in a corner and I’ll ride it out. Please don’t ask the help desk again’.” 

GWR said what happened was “totally unacceptable” and said it has launched an investigation. 

A GWR spokesperson told i: “We are sorry to learn of Sarah’s experience while at London Paddington with her son. We work closely with a leading autism charity to give all staff awareness training as part of our customer service training programme. 

“An investigation has been launched into the issues raised. We are grateful to Sarah for bringing this to our attention and are in contact with her as part of the investigation.”

Source: iNews

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RiRi

Yeah, people don't seem to give a sh*t about people with disabilities. If you tell them, you only put yourself in a vulnerable situation. They don't do sh*t, just stand there and misjudge you. F*cked up people they are. The world is is a sh*tty place, full of bull cr*p.That kid shouldn't give into that bull sh*t.

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Heather

I feel for the teen and as much as his mother was just trying to help, sometimes that can add to the anxiety. 

I don't like being singled out or treated differently. 

I'm a bit unsure why an earlier train would be less busy. I think it probably makes sense where the story is taking place though.

I would likely just try finding a spot and riding it out or figure out if I actually needed to get on that train.  Depending on how badly I need to get somewhere at a certain time, I can fight through the anxiety of a crowded train to a certain degree. Although it depends on other factors of the day.

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Myrtonos

Just because they care about physical disabilities, colour vision deficiency, intellectual impairments, etc, doesn't mean they care about autism.

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Aeolienne

I had an incident at Coventry railway station last week. I had booked a mobile ticket for the fast train to London (operated by Virgin Trains) but at the barrier I was unable to log into the app - it wasn't accepting what I thought was my password - so I wasn't allowed through and had to buy a ticket for the next departing slow train. Would it have made any difference if I'd played the autism card?

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collectingrocks

I belong to a railway forum and have an interest in the railways. Privatised rail companies don't give a damn about any passengers, whether they have got autism or not. Make a complaint and little gets done and woe betide anyone who tries to claim a refund due to late/cancelled trains. The privatised railway get carte blanche to do whatever they like and get bailed out by the UK government (aka the taxpayer) if they fail. Bring back the nationalised railway...

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Sanctuary
On 11/20/2018 at 3:04 PM, Aeolienne said:

I had an incident at Coventry railway station last week. I had booked a mobile ticket for the fast train to London (operated by Virgin Trains) but at the barrier I was unable to log into the app - it wasn't accepting what I thought was my password - so I wasn't allowed through and had to buy a ticket for the next departing slow train. Would it have made any difference if I'd played the autism card?

I hope you weren't charged twice - that you were at least refunded for the ticket you couldn't use. People forgetting passwords or technical problems are common problems and shouldn't mean someone is charged twice or can't get a refund.

As regards "playing the autism card" this is a difficult judgement. While staff will usually be alert to passengers with visible disabilities and be supportive towards them their attitude towards those with invisible disabilities is often very different - some will be extremely helpful but others will be indifferent or even dismissive. Autism remains a poorly-understood condition among the general population, most of whom have little idea the challenges it can present. It may be though that raising it either before travelling or afterwards to managerial staff may be more effective. I'm not sure if it applies in the UK but in some places individuals can carry a card, document or other symbol which can quickly explain to staff that they have a condition like autism and may need support. This is probably the best strategy but staff generally need more training on how to support passengers with invisible disabilities and conditions. 

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StarlessEclipse

I've had a few unfortunate experiences with ScotRail, the main problem being that booking seats weeks or even months in advance is no guarantee that your reservation will be respected. Even though we'd paid for specific seats, we were suddnenly told without any further explanation that booked seats were no longer reserved, and what should have been a simple, relaxing journey instead became a very stressful ordeal. Thankfully, my sister was able to sit with my mother, but I don't know what would have happened if she hadn't. She's autistic, learning disabled, epileptic and requires constant supervision. Forcing such huge, unscheduled changes on customers on what seems to be a regular basis demonstrates a total lack of concern for the needs of the vulnerable.

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Aeolienne
On ‎11‎/‎22‎/‎2018 at 9:58 AM, Sanctuary said:

I hope you weren't charged twice - that you were at least refunded for the ticket you couldn't use. People forgetting passwords or technical problems are common problems and shouldn't mean someone is charged twice or can't get a refund. 

No, I was charged twice. Virgin Trains' website is currently down, and National Rail Enquiries has nothing to say about claiming compensation for forgetting a password.

National Rail Enquiries: Passenger Rights to Refunds & Compensation

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Willow

I've had relatively good experiences myself. I once put my friend on her train home and was concerned about how she might cope on the journey alone, and I made sure the conductor knew that she'd been struggling and if he could please keep an eye on her, make sure no one sits on the empty seat next to her if possible, told him where she was getting off etc., and he was lovely about it, and she made it home safe and sound. 

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