The Quiet Musings

Accessible Train Travel

- June 8th, 2018 -

Since I moved to the Netherlands in the year 2000, my main transport mode has been public transport. During my college years, I lived in another city than where I attended school and had to travel a total of 3 hours daily by train with NS and by default ProRail. The past 7 years, I travel for work 4 days a week by tram, train, and metro. Suffice to say I’m a seasoned train traveler. I’ve seen train travel improve, from making them all non-smoker to adding digital screens and an app. Gone are the days of trying to figure out on the yellow boards how to travel.

But for me as a late-deaf person, train service still leaves a lot to desire. Even with the screens in the train and an app. I always have a hard time figuring what is going on when there are train delays. It happens often that the screens in the trains are turned off. When they are in use the only information they show are the stops, current time and eventual time delay. If for some reason the train is standing still on the tracks a long time there isn’t a message on the screen explaining why. The only way to know what’s going on right away, is to hear it on the intercom from the conductor.

And most importantly yet. Safety. NS takes(rightfully so) the sign of doors closing very serious. You can get a hefty fine for trying to sneak in last second between the closing doors.

But I’m deaf, I can’t hear when the conductor whistles for doors closing. In Rotterdam when I get out of the metro sometimes I have about 4 minutes to make it to my train. I’m busy jogging up stairs, navigating the mass of people, checking-in, dodging more people, then going up the escalators to the platform. Even when I see on my watch there is one minute left, it might be less. Once I was just getting in when the doors closed, almost getting my backpack stuck. I thought I still had time left. But obviously, the conductor had already whistled. This could have been a potentially unsafe situation and I could have gotten a fine of hundreds of euros because I can’t hear the whistle signaling doors closing.

It made me think about why there aren’t any visual alert system that the doors are closing? If all doors were fitted with a red light that turns on or flashes, signaling doors closing. I wouldn’t have to stress if I’m trying to catch a train last minute. I would know if I still have time to get in or not. It would be handy too for hearing people who were still too far to hear the whistle but running fast enough that they’d think they still can get on the train.

Train travel would be so much more relaxing, accessible, safe and fun for hard of hearing and deaf people if we had easy access to last minute information and if the doors closing signal is also visible instead of only accessible to hearing people.