Birmingham student puts accessible transport into first gear
A Birmingham student is steering accessibility to the top of the agenda after being hand-selected to help driver training at one of the biggest names in UK transport.
Twenty year old University of Birmingham chemistry student Helen Abbott has been chosen to star in a new DVD produced by coach giant National Express as a key part of its driver training sessions.
The newly-completed DVD, produced as part of National Express’ Youth Promise - a pledge to support young people, will now be an integral part of all driver training programmes. It teaches drivers how to use the on-board wheelchair lifts which are found on every National Express coach.
The training film features Helen using the coach wheelchair lift alongside an in-depth look at how the pioneering technology works. This is the first time the company, which was the first in the UK to install wheelchair lifts to its coaches, has utilised a service-user to illustrate its technology in this way before.
Bosses at National Express invited the undergraduate to star in their video after hearing about the inspirational student through its work with young person’s accessibility charity Whizz-Kidz. The coach company, which has a long track record of pioneering accessible travel, was keen to make its accessibility sessions a two-way street by working with disability charities and to make the session engaging with the use of multi-media technology.
Not only is wheelchair user Helen determined to lead an independent life, choosing to move out of home in Sutton Coldfield to live in university halls, but she also supports other people to have the freedom to do so too. Helen takes part in a calendar of volunteering activities for local causes, including helping elderly people learn IT skills at the New Heights Café in Kingstanding and she is also a member of the West Midlands Whizz-Kidz local ambassadors club where she supports other young people with accessibility issues.
Helen said: “I was really excited when National Express asked me to star in their DVD – I’ve never done anything like this before. I was really keen to take part because travel is such an important part of people’s lives and because it helps people live independently. It is certainly an important part of my life, so I hope the DVD helps support more people to travel – it is really exciting to think that it will be seen by so many drivers. It’s great National Express has chosen to use a real service user in this way as hopefully it will make drivers more confident in using the technology when they welcome passengers on board.”
Mark Hollis, National Express UK Coach Business Excellence Manager, said: “Accessibility training is a core part of our driver training sessions and we were determined to make our session really engaging with something our drivers can access afterwards, so we hit on the idea of producing a DVD. To get the best training for our drivers it was really important to make sure the DVD was accurate and a true reflection of the issues travellers can face, so we were really keen to work with Whizz-Kidz to ensure we got it right. We think Helen is a fantastic role model and ambassador for accessible travel and we were so pleased when she agreed to be in our video. In doing so, she is helping train the thousands of National Express drivers we have on our network."
National Express works with Whizz-Kidz on a range of projects including their Youth Promise, which is a pledge to support young people get on in life and work. To find out more visit www.nationalexpress.com/youthpromise