British Columbia

TransLink user with epilepsy calls for better disability signage

A young woman who suffers from seizures is asking TransLink to update its priority seating signage to reflect the needs of people with invisible disabilities.

TransLink says it has a committee for people with disabilities to provide feedback

Tavia Marlatt has epilepsy and has to use public transit to get around. She wants TransLink to update its priority seating signage. (CBC)

A young woman who suffers from seizures is asking TransLink to update its priority seating signage to reflect the needs of people with invisible disabilities. 

Tavia Marlatt from Surrey, B.C., experiences major seizures, causing her to black out and fall to the ground. She uses the seats marked for people with disabilities to prevent getting injured. 

"I get the nastiest looks from everybody because I'm 19 and just by looking at me, you can't tell that I have a disability," Marlatt said.

"There's not enough room in the back to have a grand mal seizure without getting hurt." 

Marlatt relies on transit to get around every day; drivers must not have had a seizure for at least a year to get behind the wheel, but she has a major seizure about every two weeks.

To accommodate the needs of people like her, she's asking TransLink to put up signs with the international medical symbol — a mark she has tattooed on her arm — alongside the wheelchair symbol.

She says the current sign implies a person must have a physical disability to use the priority seating. 

Tavia Marlatt shows the international symbol of medicine she has tattooed on her wrist, which she says should be used to designate priority seating on transit. (CBC)

TransLink response

In a written response, TransLink said Marlatt's request serves as a reminder to all passengers that many disabilities are invisible. 

"We urge all our customers to be kind and considerate to their fellow passengers," said TransLink. 

The transit authority said its Access Transit Users' Advisory Committee meets once every two months to provide feedback on how it can better accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. 

It also said it has increased the number of priority seating signs on its buses and SkyTrain.

TransLink did not, however, specifically address whether it would accept Marlatt's request. 

Marlatt says disability signs used on public transit imply only people with physical disabilities can sit in priority seating areas. (CBC)

More compassion needed: teen

Marlatt says her ultimate goal is to create a better understanding of invisible disabilities among transit users and the general public. 

"I would just really hope that people put more of an effort into learning about non-physical disabilities," she said. 

She said her last experience having a seizure on the bus came as a shock — she woke up lying on the floor with the door repeatedly closing on her head.

"Literally nobody tried to help me. They just stood there and watched," she said.  "I was very upset with our society for not helping a youth having a medical issue."

She's been sitting in the priority seating area ever since then, despite the dirty looks. 

With files from Kamil Karamali