Transdev Melbourne is working to create a more accessible and inclusive service for autistic passengers by releasing a social script, in an Australian first for a metropolitan bus service.
A social script is a story-based strategy to explain new experiences and social environments to autistic people. They tell the person what is going to happen and what they can do. Often autistic people will prepare themselves for an event by reading the story or having the story read to them.
The social script was developed in conjunction with Transdev Melbourne’s 2021 community partner, Amaze, the peak body for autistic people and their supporters in Victoria, and contains detailed information about what an autistic person can expect when catching a bus including what to do if they feel overwhelmed.
Transdev will also offer autism awareness training to all drivers ensuring they are aware how they can support passengers with autism travelling on buses.
Ian Craig, Managing Director, Transdev Melbourne said, “Every day we help people move around our city and we have an absolute commitment to providing a welcoming, accessible and inclusive service for all.
“Together, the social script and autism awareness training for our drivers are helping reduce the barriers for people with autism to travel on Victoria’s bus network.”
To create the social script, an audit of a bus journey was conducted in consultation with an autistic person who identified key points that needed to be explained and identified potential issues which may prove challenging for autistic people. Based on the audit Amaze then developed the social script and provided guidance on photography.
Amaze CEO Jim Mullan said that Amaze was very pleased to work with Transdev to make the Melbourne bus service more inclusive and accessible for autistic people.
“The social script is a fantastic resource informed by autistic people for autistic people. Combined with the autism training for drivers, it will make catching a bus clearer, simpler and more accessible for autistic commuters.
“We also encourage all commuters to look at the social script to gain a better understanding of an autistic person’s perspective when catching a bus,” he said.
Research conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC)1 indicated travelling on the public transport network can be problematic for autistic people. Participants reported increased levels of anxiety caused by travelling on a new route for the first time, fear of missing the stop and anxiety about how to deal with unexpected events and unfamiliar people.
The report also indicated travelling on public transport presented a range of sensory issues for autistic people including the need for personal space, information overload and discomfort. Sensory issues commonly experienced by people with autism on public transport included balance and motion sickness, noise, tactile sensation, lights and smell.
The social script aims to help autistic bus passengers anticipate some of these experiences and guidance on what to do if they become overwhelmed.
As part of its Community Partnership Program Transdev Melbourne has partnered with Amaze to help increase understanding of autism and spread the word about Amaze's new Autism Connect national helpline service.
To date, Transdev has also supported Amaze’s Change Your Reactions campaign by providing bus advertising and digital billboards across a number of locations in Melbourne. The campaign encourages members of the public to consider their reactions to autistic people and how small changes in behaviour can create a more inclusive and welcoming world.
The social script can be downloaded here.