Request for autistic experience of Scotland’s public transport

An autistic adult is working with Autism Network Scotland on a project aiming to improve the travel experience for autistic people in Scotland.

Cal McFarlane is seeking help in making autistic voices heard in a report for the Scottish Government on the challenges autistic people face when using public transport.

She is working with Thom Kirkwood, Engagement and Participation Officer from Autism Network Scotland, a team based at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

They are gathering input and examples for a report on Assisted Travel as part of the Scottish Strategy for Autism.

The relevant component of the Strategy is from the Active Citizenship outcome: “We will share the best practice from assisted travel training work nationally and explore with Integration Authorities how assisted travel training can lead to better outcomes for young autistic people to travel independently and access their community.”

Cal said: “We want to hear from autistic people of all ages in order to build a complete picture of the travel related challenges for which young people need to prepare. We are looking for your accounts of the difficulties of using any type of public transport in Scotland as an autistic person, as someone travelling with an autistic person, or both. Positive examples of good practice where useful, autism accepting support was received are also very welcome.”

It is very important that the examples they use are anonymous and that nobody can be identified from them. Even if you or others would be happy to be identified, they are not allowed to do so.

Therefore, if you can, please write any examples in the third person (as if you were writing about somebody else; “they travelled…” rather than “I travelled”). You may make up a name but please do not use any real name within your examples. Please detail only the age group (under 16; 16 to 25; 25 to 40; 40 to 55; over 55) and area (eg Highland, Lothian, Ayrshire).

Although the type of transport involved is useful, please do not name any towns or any location where a set number of people work or give precise dates of journeys. For example, “Mary, age group 40 to 55, travelled by train from a city to a small coastal station in winter”, rather than “I travelled by train on 20th January 2018 from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay”. If you actually are describing something which happened to somebody else, please ask their permission and make sure they understand that they will not be identifiable from what will be described.

“Some of the challenges may include things like sensory issues, social barriers, communication and information accessibility, coping with change and unexpected events or delays, crowds, being prevented from taking the time you need to process things, getting support when targeted or frightened by antisocial behaviour,” Cal said.

“We are also interested to hear about any instance where autism intersects with other factors to make the traveller even more vulnerable, for instance other disabilities or being part of another protected group such as LGBTQIA+ or an ethnic minority.

“We need to know about any strategies used to cope with these difficulties and any ongoing effects from the experiences you describe; any ways in which they have changed what you feel able to do or how you feel about your safety and ability to continue the journeys you want and need to make.”

Examples can be sent directly to Thom; please include “Assisted Travel” in the subject line of emails or as a heading on a written document.

Any responses are needed by November 30.

Thom’s contact details are: Email: or by letter to Thom Kirkwood, Engagement and Participation Officer, Autism Network Scotland, Room 636, Curran Building, 101 St John Street, Glasgow G4 0NS.

Please contact him if you have any queries or if you would like to be kept informed about this project. Thom works flexibly, part time and is mostly community based; emails will be checked and responded to periodically but may not be the same day.

Cal said: “We appreciate that it is emotionally draining to think and talk about difficult experiences and we are very thankful for the time and effort which autistic people put in so that coping strategies may be shared, service providers may learn and things can get better for others.”