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Feature: Transport programme helps disabled students in Barking and Dagenham travel independently

PUBLISHED: 11:00 02 January 2017

Travel trainer Trevor Scannell with student Richmond Manu, 12.

Travel trainer Trevor Scannell with student Richmond Manu, 12.

Archant

You’ll hear most Londoners moaning about the rush hour crush and the drudge of their daily commute.

Travel trainer Trevor Scannell and coordinator Merry Collins.Travel trainer Trevor Scannell and coordinator Merry Collins.

But for youngsters with disabilities travelling can be far more distressing – and impact significantly on the quality of their work and social life.

A programme to help young students reclaim their independence by travelling alone by foot, bus, train or tube is gathering speed in its sixth year.

Merry Collins, a travel trainer coordinator at Disability Action Barking and Dagenham (DABD), says the programme for students aged between 11 and 25 – including wheelchair users, students with autism and those with vision impairment – can work wonders.

“Some of our students have never been away from their home before, it’s a whole new experience for them and not just for them but for the families too,” explained the 43-year-old, who works at the charity’s base in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham.

‘I like to give back to the community’

Kerry Cannadine is a travel trainer living in Barking & Dagenham and won DABD’s Travel Trainer of the Year in 2016.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for those of us wanting a few extra hours of work a week. It’s a worthwhile job giving back to the community, essentially getting paid to do the school run.

“The amount of pleasure you get from teaching and helping the students to become independent just can’t be matched. It’s perfect for me. I like to give back to the community and area that I grew up and live in.On top of this, DABD are a fantastic organisation to work for – always supportive and providing you with plenty of training.Travel training is really rewarding for both the student and their families and for the trainers themselves.”

The programme is tailored to each individual, but usually starts with a few weeks of “hand-holding”, as the trainer and student make the journey from school to home together.

Gradually, the trainer moves the goalposts by meeting the student at various checkpoints on their journey. By the end of the eight to 12 week programme, the student can navigate their daily route to and from school or work entirely on their own, combating former stresses of overcrowding, peak time travel and navigating timetables.

“It’s not just about finding their way home but of getting people to treat them not just as someone with a disability,” said Merry.

Richmond Manu, 12, is one of ten students from the borough to complete his training this

year. On the autistic spectrum, he suffers from high anxiety levels and finds change

difficult.

But after just three months of training, he can now make his own way to and from his home in Heathway to Sydney Russell School in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, on the 364 bus.

“I am happy now I can go – my mum now believes I can do it by myself,” said the Year 8 student, who has learnt an alternative walking route in case he gets too anxious to ride the bus.

Merry says all students differ in how they deal with transport challenges, but most respond well to learning time management, “stranger danger” – not talking to strangers – and ways to manage fears, such as counting techniques.

“You can make a massive difference with just a little bit of time each day,” added Merry. “All you need is a lot of patience and a sense of humour, empathy

and the desire to make a difference.”

The travel training scheme runs in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Newham and Waltham Forest. Contact DABD on 020 8592 8603 or email hr@dabd.org.uk for an application pack.


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