Graham has always relied on buses for jobs, medical appointments and meeting friends, but as an autistic man he finds bus travel daunting.

He dreads the bus being crowded and having to push past people. At times he has missed his stop because people were standing in the aisle, and he would rather go to work hours early rather than face the rush hour.

Sensory issues around lights, the sounds of other people's music or conversations, the smell of food and the lurching of the bus all add to his stress.

Sometimes it gets too much. "At times all this can cause my body to shut down. I lose the ability to stand up or walk, temporarily," Graham says.

The amount of times I've had people say to me 'don't be silly'. If they knew what was happening to me in my body and my head when I'm feeling overwhelmed they wouldn't say it was silly.

Graham is sharing his experiences in our video because he wants friends, family, employers, bus drivers and fellow passengers to understand better what autistic people might be going through.

And bus operator Stagecoach North East is using the video on its internal staff platform to remind drivers of the impact that disabilities - including hidden disabilities - can have on people.

Colin Newbury, Operations Director, says: "Our drivers get disability and equality training but we've got to be constantly mindful about what's happening with our passengers and this video will be a good reminder for our staff. We are very keen to make sure that public transport is inclusive to everyone."

The Government has pledged that all public transport will be fully accessible by 2030, and Stagecoach are rolling out audio and visual next-stop announcements on all their buses by 2026.

Other things that Stagecoach North East are doing include:

  • taking delivery of a new batch of electric vehicles later this year which are quieter than diesel buses
  • carrying out trials on bus interior redesigns so they are less cluttered and provide a better sensory environment, including more space between seats, gentler lighting and fewer advertisements
  • looking to roll out videos of their bus routes - already available in Teesside - to other depots around the region so passengers can watch on YouTube and see the journey unfold. 

The Stagecoach app is also under review. "One of the biggest points of feedback we get is around our app and knowing when the next bus is coming," Mr Newbury says. "We know it can create some anxiety, so the company is looking to see if there are any improvements we can make to the accuracy of the app."

Watch Graham's video on YouTube here