I was chatting with @charliemuss a few weeks ago about the real power of telling stories, particularly when it comes to illustrating what's really important to people.
We were at an event hosted by The ESP Group, at the National Assembly in Cardiff, no less, talking about the potential for making transport services and technology work for inclusion and wellbeing. It's an impressive venue and well worth a visit.
Anyhow, we were concluding that we should share more stories.
So here's mine.
The next day I turned up at Cardiff Queen Street Station without my ticket to Exeter, which is another story. Maybe I looked a little flustered. I was certainly a little behind schedule and only had a rough idea of what my journey entailed.
Two staff were at the ticket counter. While one searched for trains to Exeter the other peered over their shoulder and started suggesting alternatives. It would be better if you caught Train A and connected with Train B. This one means you won't have a long walk to the next train... between them they quickly worked out the smoothest and best value journey, checking with me as they went along. Would I like the itinerary printed out? How about a wallet to keep all the tickets together?
They made it clear which of the three tickets I needed first and, as I went through barrier, another member of staff smiled and asked if I was OK, did I know which platform I was heading for?
I sat on the platform, waiting for the train, feeling, well... looked after. It left me wondering about 'dementia-friendly' services and what it really means. This was was more than friendly.
Damian's post about The York Minds and Voices DEEP group describing Barnitts the hardware shop in York being the most ‘dementia friendly’ place in York was fresh in my mind. I know Barnitts and as Damian says, it's labyrinth, but staff know this and help people navigate it.
If there is a hunger to properly serve customers, then customer facing staff everywhere will be actively watching and listening, picking up on small cues and making themselves more visible and approachable, knowing as everyone should that it is more often the situation that disables not the condition.
I felt like I'd just experienced something similar. No sticker on the window, no certificate on the wall. Just good, caring, thoughtful and yes, enabling service. My own situation had worked against me that morning - and yet I was helped to feel confident and able to make the journey. The tickets were in one place, not jumbled in my pocket as usual. I had a printed itinerary that listed my trains and times - I normally try and hold this in my head. Those staff had picked up on my (maybe not so small) cues.
One of the themes that has emerged during our workshops with people affected by dementia has been gratitude. Some people look puzzled when I mention this but it's important. Good stuff often happens, we're thankful when it does but sometimes we don't have a chance to say thank you or explain why and how it made a difference. I'm sure I said thanks at the time but I was distracted and in a hurry. I spent the rest of the day feeling grateful to those who had made it a much better start to the day than it might have been.
I often try to describe my thoughts on the value of, and the need for, turning dementia 'awareness' into a deeper understanding of what can practically help people to travel well. The small things that can make a difference - that remove barriers from taking a journey. In the future I'll use this experience as an example.
I suspect it's happening around us all the time, we just need to be on the lookout, recognising truly enabling service when it happens and then sharing our stories.