Varsha Saraogi (VS): What made Arriva Rail launch this initiative?
Stella Rogers (SR):
We are continuously striving to improve the passenger experience for everyone travelling across the capital on the London Overground. Everyone has the right to safe, comfortable and seamless journeys and work alongside our stakeholders to broaden accessibility, making each journey as easy as possible.
A key policy within the Mayor’s Transport Strategy is ‘London’s streets and public transport network must enable disabled and older people travel more easily, spontaneously and independently’.
So when the opportunity arose to bid for Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) funding to support customers with hidden disabilities, we jumped at the chance because we could see great potential to improve the experience of our passengers.
We want our customers to have the confidence to make safe journeys across the London Overground in the knowledge that they can access support from our trained staff when they need it. As part of the course, employees are given training to identify customers who require additional assistance, and the techniques to break down communication barriers.
What does the training entail?
A demonstration of the Adaptable Carriage
The training covers a range of topics from deaf culture and identity, to degrees of deafness, communication barriers, lip reading, fingerspelling and techniques for assisting and communicating with customers who are deaf or have a hearing loss.
Delivered by a deaf trainer, the training programme has been inspired and shaped by deaf people and those with a hearing loss, as well as station teams who assist passengers every day who are deaf or have a hearing loss; their shared experiences have been vital in creating an inclusive programme that will ensure everyone feels safe and secure whilst travelling on the London Overground.
We developed the training programme alongside Signly, Deafax and DCAL, University College London's Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre.
What are the reasons for having a deaf trainer train the staff?
A deaf trainer brings real-life experience and knowledge to the training programme. They are able to answer questions from a deaf person’s perspective and share information that can directly be applied by the attendees on the course.
When is the training due to begin?
Training has already begun, and in total, 350 ARL employees have embarked on a specially designed deaf awareness programme. [At the time of writing] 121 employees have been trained up. The one-day course will bolster the current disability awareness training, as part of the customer service employee induction.
What role does technology have in the initiative?
Technology is a key enabler to make travel easier and more convenient for all of our passengers. Through our innovation programme with TfL, we are always seeking new ways to improve the passenger and employee experience.
What other accessibility initiatives is Arriva planning to implement in the future?
We are also about to begin running training courses with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) to increase the knowledge and skills of our frontline staff when dealing with customers that have a visual impairment.