Avanti West Coast passenger with wheelchair uses the operator's Travel Companion service

UK: Avanti West Coast has launched a WhatsApp channel providing instant access to specialist support for passengers with disabilities.

Travel Companion is staffed by members of the inter-city operator’s social media team who have ‘passion and empathy for accessibility’, as well as specialist knowledge. AWC said the aim of the service is to ensure that users were able to contact ‘someone that really understands’, so they do not need to explain in detail what support they require.

AWC has also signed up to offer the Be My Eyes app, which enables blind or partially-sighted people to obtain immediate video support from sighted volunteers and professionals. This can assist with queries that may not be easily communicated via text, such as someone’s location onboard a train or at a station, which ticket to present, or reading food labels. According to Be My Eyes founder Hans Jørgen Wiberg, this is the first time that a transport operator has joined the Be My Eyes Specialized Help service.

‘We know the value of creating a dialogue with those who have a shared understanding, which is why we’ve launched Travel Companion to connect our disabled customers with accessible travel experts during their journey’, explained AWC Accessibility & Inclusion Manager Brandon Peat. ‘By providing a dedicated channel, we hope those who may need additional assistance are reassured they can get that bit of extra help when they need it, as well as give them more confidence to make journeys independently.’