Avanti West Coast has become the first UK train operator to provide disabled customers with a dedicated social media forum, connecting them with other disabled passengers and directly to the company’s social media team to provide specialist support.

Managed by the company’s social media team, they have set up the Facebook group Accessible Rail Travel with Avanti West Coast, a private but visible group, where travellers who may require additional support can get direct information about any journeys they may be undertaking using the service, as well as creating a community for support and insight.

The idea was kickstarted by Avanti West Coast’s head of social content Emma Martell, who lives with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. After her diagnosis, Emma found support by joining Facebook groups, which gave her practical information as well as emotional support.

With her knowledge of how helpful these groups could be, she took the idea to the group’s Accessibility Panel with the aim of building a community for the group’s disabled customers.

Emma said: “We believe creating a sense of community with our customers through a private forum on social media can add real value for those who may need extra assistance. We want to both help them directly and enable them to help others, so everyone feels supported when planning or making a journey.”

“By connecting people who have a shared understanding we want to build a support network, where tips and experiences for journeys on our route can be exchanged. We hope this platform will help to improve the overall journey experience for disabled customers and encourage more people to travel by train.”

Avanti has provided their social media team with training from Furner Communications, giving them the skills and knowledge to help the company’s disabled customers, including training in the social model of disability.

Tony Jennings, the co-chair of Avanti West Coast’s external Accessibility Panel, said: “Accessible social media plays an important part in welcoming and reassuring disabled people back onto the railways and helps with journey planning, giving us the confidence to travel. I’m really looking forward to being involved with the group.”

To join the group, you’ll need a Facebook profile. Click here to go to the group and request to join – a member of Avanti West Coast’s social media team will accept the request and allow you to begin interacting.

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