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Dyslexic student fined for being unable to operate self-service ticket machine

Monday 12 August 2019

The BDA were saddened to hear of the experiences of Oliver Edwards last week. Despite his best efforts to buy a ticket and requesting help from staff Oliver, who is severely dyslexic, was unable to operate the self-service ticket machine or buy a ticket at the station because the ticket office was closed / on the train, and subsequently received a penalty fare notice from South Eastern Trains.

Helen Boden, CEO, British Dyslexia Association, said:

“In some cases, dyslexia can be so severe that someone can’t read, which can make many everyday tasks that are taken for granted by others incredibly difficult. It is important that businesses make reasonable adjustments for people and that they make staff aware of how to handle such sensitive issues properly to avoid undue stress and embarrassment for all concerned – not just because it is the right thing to do but because dyslexia is legally recognised as a disability in the UK, so the law requires it.

There are many advantages to services becoming more digital – but we must remember that many people still need to speak with a human to be able to access services and it is immoral or illegal to make this unreasonably difficult to access. At the BDA we often work with a variety of organisations large and small in a consultancy capacity on such issues in order that they can improve their operations and ensure the accessibility of the services that they provide. Since at least 10% of the population are dyslexic it also makes economic sense for organisations to ensure they are not excluding or alienating this substantial customer, employee and recruitment base.”

South Eastern Trains refers to their Disabled Passenger Protection Policy. Upon review of this lengthy policy, it is interesting to note that whilst great efforts have clearly been made with regards to physical disabilities there is little mention of hidden disabilities, only that staff have received training on this issue. South Eastern Trains also identifies in their response that the Self-Service Ticket Machines are “dyslexia friendly”! The BDA would be interested to know how this claim is substantiated.

Beyond this incident, however, what it demonstrates is that companies that provide services really must ensure that those services are accessible to all. Whilst this case was about dyslexia, in real terms this is a wider issue of fair accessibility to everyday services for all individuals who experience a range of hidden difficulties.