Read Graham and Becky's personal experiences of the Helping Hand card:


Graham Oulton is registered blind. In his case, it means he doesn't see the world like the rest of us do. Instead, as a result of glaucoma, he has both tunnel vision plus a major loss of peripheral vision.

It hasn't always been this way. Graham's condition is progressive, so life has become steadily more difficult for him. His eyesight began to deteriorate early on in life and in 2008 he was registered blind making simple, everyday activities - such as getting on the local bus - no longer quite so straightforward.

Sometimes Graham - who travels with his trusted guide dog Bassey - can't see the bus approaching. And when he's on board a bus that doesn't have talking technology he can never be certain when his stop is coming up. And it's not so easy for him to navigate a busy bus that's trying to keep to a schedule while he makes his way to a free seat. The whole experience can be fraught with anxieties.

But in fact Graham, who lives in Brighton, is an avid bus user. He and Bassey together travel by bus most days of the week. He manages well - really well - and it's in part thanks to a pioneering award-winning accessibility card that has transformed bus travel for him.

"The Helping Hand card is unlike any other such card I've experienced", he says. "It's the size and sturdiness of a credit card and it's got bump-ons in one corner so as soon as I feel it in my wallet I know it's the Helping Hand card and which way round to show it. I know it helps some people to hail the bus from the bus stop because it's bright yellow."

"It also means the driver is aware of me. He knows he needs to take extra care. I don't have to say anything to the driver as the Helping Hand card does that for me. I show the driver my card. Mine says 'Please assist if required'. Usually the driver waits, giving me the time to find my way to a seat and settle into it before moving off.

"It makes going out and about possible for someone like me and that's a lifeline. It gives me independence and dignity."

Graham is the former head of the Brighton & Hove branch of Guide Dogs and, together with the charity, was highly instrumental in developing the card. He knew there was a great need for an accessibility card that didn't just help disabled people get out and about but did it in a way that was discreet and dignified for people living with disabilities.

He worked with Brighton & Hove Buses to come up with the perfect solution: a small, discreet, unbranded yellow card with a bespoke message in black print directed at the driver. No mention of a condition or disability, just what's required of the driver for the card holder to have a pleasant, anxiety-free, independent journey.

The bus company continues to work with the very people who use the card so it is still evolving to meet the needs of its users. The bump-ons are coming off and instead one corner will be cut to make it even easier to identify as the Helping Hand card.

Graham says: "The best thing about the card is that it's come about because users like me were involved in developing it. That's the reason it works and that's the reason it gets used in places other than the bus - in restaurants and at cinemas and shops. I highly recommend it."


There was a time Becky Ellis could not get on a bus on her own. The whole experience was just too difficult. She's a lovely, bubbly outgoing woman, so anyone who didn't know her would find it very difficult to understand why. That's because Becky has what's known as a hidden disability. She has learning disabilities and has - in the past - lacked the confidence to get on a bus.

Then four years ago she took part in a travel buddy scheme run by Grace Eyre, a charity that supports people with learning disabilities. She was paired up with someone who also has learning disabilities and travelled around with them for weeks until she had the confidence to go it alone. Once she started riding the buses on her own, she began to experience how difficult it can be for someone with a hidden disability. Sometimes she found it hard to explain her needs to the driver. Sometimes, it was embarrassing to do so. And sometimes other customers would get cross with her for sitting in a priority seat - where Becky has always felt the safest as she's closer to the driver.

A couple of years ago she recounted these experiences in a video study she did for Brighton University that was researching the experiences of adults with learning disabilities on public transport in the UK.

Becky's experiences of travelling by bus with a hidden disability has played a critical part in the development of Helping Hand. She worked closely with Brighton & Hove Buses to ensure people with learning difficulties were included in the bus services' accessibility provisions.

Becky says: "I told Brighton & Hove Buses about how I got funny looks from other passengers when I sat in a priority seat and was often asked to move. It's sometimes difficult for me to explain clearly why I have a right to be there and that I feel safer there. It's also embarrassing having to explain myself.

"After my conversation, the bus company made sure that one of the messages on the pre-printed Helping Hand card was 'priority seating required'.

The Helping Hand card helped to make getting around so much easier for Becky. She has used it - as it was intended - for drivers to understand her needs but also for other passengers who tackle her about sitting in the priority seating area. "I just flash it at anyone who says I ought to get up and they understand and let me stay', she says.

"I think it's really helpful for people with hidden disabilities like me to travel by bus"

Becky now travels confidently by bus and continues to work closely with the bus company such as with the Drama on the Bus scheme in which people with learning disabilities are given a dedicated bus - taken out of service specially for the purpose - on which to role-play the sort of scenarios that have in the past caused them anxiety when they tried travelling by bus. The scheme is run by Grace Eyre with the help of Brighton & Hove Buses.