Communication support – disability specific cards and other identifying items

This is as complete a list as I can currently compile (there are some places that have removed details of everything they sell from their websites whilst they’re closed for COVID-19 reasons). Expect this list to expand in due course and for the post to be edited. Please do draw any broken links to my attention.

Although I’d been aware of a number of these before drafting this post, the act of drafting leads me to conclude that disability or illness specific alerting cards or items are generally made for disabilities / illnesses / conditions

  • that can affect how people behave in public
  • that can cause loss of consciousness
  • that can affect how people communicate
  • that affect how people should be cared for by medics in emergency situations
  • that are really rare, so a prompt is needed for unfamiliar medics.

Deliberately omitted from this post, which is already quite long are alerting cards / other documents for particular medications or that operate in particular areas of the country – this is a condition specific list.

Headway provide a card for people with Acquired Brain Injury

Alzheimers/ dementia

A charity is working on ID cards for ataxia

Auditory Processing Disorder (at the end of the document)

There are lots of Autism Alert Cards:

The National Autistic Society’s downloadable one

ARGH card designed by autistic people for autistic people

Autism Anglia (covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk)

Autism Berkshire (covers Bracknell, Reading, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough, West Berkshire, Wokingham)

Autism Wessex (covers Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole)

Autism West Midlands (covers the British Transport Police nationally as well as Staffordshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands (eg. Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton), the West Mercia Constabulary (think Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin)

Cheshire Autism


Devon and Cornwall

East Sussex


Howgate shopping centre, Falkirk, Scotland


Leeds City

London (also used by the British Transport Police)

The Marlands shopping centre, Southampton


Pentagon shopping centre, Chatham, Kent


South Yorkshire



Behcet’s disease

Mobility canes for blind people – they also sell red and white canes for deafblind people. (there’s a relatively straight forward process for blind people to register their sight loss in the LA registers, which perhaps diminishes their need for any separate card or other small identifying object).

Cancer on board badges

Deafblind cards

Deaf children / Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association – for BSL users / Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association – for non-BSL users / Hearing Aid battery books / badges for deaf people and wristbands and related items for deaf people

Developmental Language Disorder

Diabetes Wristbands / Diabetes ID cards for insulin users only / Diabetes necklaces / more diabetes wristbands and other ID / Insulin passports

Given how hard it is to find any dyslexia specific alert cards, I suspect they aren’t considered to be useful by many dyslexics. There was, some ten years ago, a Bromley specific scheme providing a card called Helping Everyone with Literacy Problems to help people ask non-verbally for help with reading and completing forms. It is unclear to me why this scheme no longer exists; public spending cuts or it being a non-disabled person’s solution to something that wasn’t needed.

Epilepsy Action / Epilepsy Society

Heart Conditions/ Heart Failure / Cardiomyopathy

Huntingdon’s disease

Fistula wristbands/ Emergency treatment keyrings for people with fistulas for dialysis/ more emergency keyrings

Advanced liver disease / hepatic encephalopathy passport

Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Mental Health – key ring based set of cards for anxiety

Crisis cards: a generic crisis card. Central and North West London, an easy read version by Central and North West London, Dudley and Walsall, NHS Fife, Wales

Motor Neurone Disease

Multiple Sclerosis

Muscular Dystrophies

Myotonic Dystrophy


Phaeochromocytoma / Paraganglioma

Prospopagnosia (face blindness)

Stroke cards/ “communication licences” for people who’ve had strokes


Other communication support tools

There are many different documents and other items eg. cards / badges / wrist bands available to help people communicate non-verbally. I’ve covered those specifically intended for use when using public transport in another blog post as there are rather a lot of them. It’s quite difficult to create an overarching structure to describe what’s broadly available, as what exists comes from different sources made for different and often overlapping purposes. To keep this post to a manageable length, I haven’t covered Apple or Android Applications that do the same or a similar job to these physical objects. At an overarching level there seem to be:

  • Items which prove something about the individual to someone else
  • Items which assert an entitlement to a discount / concession
  • Items that assist communication specifically with public services or other officialdom
  • Items that generally assist communication – whether because someone cannot (always) use spoken English, the information is too lengthy/detailed to be spoken and needs to be put in writing, the information is important and has to be communicated repeatedly or because it’s designed for an emergency situation where someone who would otherwise speak is prevented from doing so.

In more detail there are:

  • Typical symbols of disability that are reasonably well known: Blue badges, Disabled Persons Railcard, Bus Pass under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (includes Freedom Passes for London), Disabled Coachcard
  • Correspondence from the DWP eg. award letters for DLA/PIP/AA and in some circumstances ESA or about the limited capable for work (and work related activity) elements of Universal Credit. This is a prerequisite to obtaining some of the other items listed here. A4 letters are much less convenient for carrying in a purse or wallet than something credit card sized. They also contain a lot of personal information that is often irrelevant.
  • Correspondence from Children’s Services or Adult Social Care eg. an assessment of your needs, details of the services they’re providing.
  • Correspondence in respect of NHS Continuing Care.
  • EHCPs and Annual Review documentation.
  • very occasionally, documents providing written proof of registration with a Local Authority as disabled, eg. Hampshire’s yellow card
  • also occasionally, letters from a doctor, usually on an NHS letterhead, confirming something about you – that you can’t stand, queue, need a telephone, need a carer (or more than one), need someone to travel with you to hospital appointments, can’t use a telephone directory etc and things like Certificates of Visual Impairment.
  • Medical Exemption Certificates for presciptions
  • cards and other identifying items to help you show you entitlement to a discount or other concession eg. Nimbus Access Card, CEA Card, DID card – usually for these sorts of cards, to obtain the card you need to show the issuing organisation some evidence of your need for it.
  • organisation specific cards showing an entitlement / concession eg. the National Trust’s Essential Companion card, Ride Access Passes / Carer Passes for Merlin theme parks.
  • cards intended to help people deal with the police and other authority figures – some Autism Alert Cards are like this. As these sorts of cards are often created together with police forces, they are usually only issued on receipt of proof of a particular disability or condition. There are other initiatives aimed at helping people with communication problems interact with the police eg. some areas’ implementations of the Safe Places Scheme (but not all of them), Pegasus Card Scheme
  • Specifics to do with toileting – RADAR keys to open accessible toilets that are kept locked using a standard key format. Can’t Wait cards which seem to sit in an odd place – they are intended for use by people who are usually verbal to reinforce or replace a verbal request to use a toilet – with part of the theatre of the request coming from the card appearing to be official (though they’re not).
  • cards and other items to explain in simple terms that you have a particular disability or illness eg. Autism Alert cards, that are often created by the well known charities and are reasonably easy to obtain on request. Here’s another by the Bladder and Bowel Foundation
  • tools that originate from disabled adults making the things that work for them see eg. Stickman Communications, the Curly Hair Project, Codeword Pineapple, Cancer on Board badges, Doodlepeople, Sootmegs
  • tools that originate from work developed by Speech and Language Therapists, see eg. products produced by the Play Doctors, like communication fans, communication passports
  • medical alert bracelets, necklaces and other items intended for emergency communication eg. Medic Alert, ICE Communication Cards, some carers emergency card schemes, message in a bottle schemes
  • situation specific tools eg. hospital passports, Disability/About Me Passport for assisting in person communication with Job Centre Plus staff, Reasonable Adjustment Passports and Wellness Action Plans for use in the workplace – many of these tools are designed for communicating information that has to be communicated repeatedly in an efficient way.

Communication support for travelling – trains

This is deliberately timed non-COVID-19 content; sometimes it’s useful to think about other things for a while. Though COVID-19 wise, it is worth considering what is written here in preparation for non-confident public transport users starting to use it again, when it becomes available for more general use. Some people may be sufficiently out of practice that they’ll need a bit of help regaining their previous level of confidence.

This isn’t a post about English National Concessionary Passes (for free bus travel) or Disabled Persons Railcards or the equivalent ones for the National Express. I’ll write about them some other time, but they are reasonably well known.

What’s less easy to find and thus is something I want to write about is the plethora of different documents / cards / badges made as communication support aids by the various different companies that run transport services and by some Local Authorities.

This post contains a lot of links; if you notice any that become broken over time I would like to know about it. It is also a post I am likely to update and edit over time anyway as what’s available changes.

Starting with the Local Authorities; some English LAs (but by no means all) have created travel wallets in bright colours that can be used by people to indicate to the driver (or guard) on local public transport that they might need additional help or time. Some of the time they’re particularly advertised to learning disabled people or to people with ASD. Sometimes they’re restricted to adults (rather than including older children who are learning how to travel independently) At the time I’m writing, I’m aware of:

Northern Ireland, where there is a yellow access travel wallet

Scotland, where they have the Thistle Card

Wales, where there is an orange wallet scheme that runs throughout the country.

Devon, where there are orange access wallets

Durham, where they operate the Bridge Card Scheme (which also operates in Tyne and Wear and Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees

Hertfordshire, where there are orange travel wallets

Worcestershire, where there are pink travel wallets

These are useful so far as they go, so if you live in one of the relevant areas, it’s worth considering asking for one. It is a shame, that there is no consistency in colour for these wallets – which will make them less useful for people who travel longer distances by public transport, as they may not be recognised further away from home.

These travel wallets are usually supplied together with journey assistance cards (discussed towards the end of this page) to enable you to signal your need for assistance to bus drivers and staff on trains.

Travel support cards

Now for the travel support cards offered by some of the train operators. These look to me like they are of relatively limited use for most people, as the emphasis is on recording a name and telephone number of a friend/relative/carer/PA who can be contacted for you if you get into difficulties. Some have space to record how you would like staff to help you if you are in difficulties. This makes them potentially useful, to my mind for,

  • people who lose the ability to speak when in difficulties (whether by reason of a panic attack, high anxiety, seizures)
  • people who aren’t very good at using spoken English generally (eg. some primary BSL users, people with poorly comprehensible speech, people at early stages of learning English)
  • those learning how to travel independently who want a note of what they might ask staff if they experience difficulties.
  • some learning disabled people

In nearly all of these cases, the individual’s difficulty with communicating is unlikely to be restricted to just difficulties communicating about transport, so a separate card to show to a train guard / bus driver may not be as of as much use as a more comprehensive solution Medic Alert bracelet or necklace or a communication book or an Apple/Andoid App to support communication.

Transport operators offering such cards at the time of writing, include:

Gatwich Express/ Great Northern / Southern /Thameslink (these operators have a common card)

London Northwestern Railway

Scotrail offer both badges and a communication aid card

South Eastern Railway

South Western Railway

Transport for London

West Midlands Railway

Some other national schemes that are potentially useful communication aids when travelling.

Blue Assist Cards – allow you to create a text message on paper/mobile phone that could be shown to someone to ask for help.

Helping Hand Cards these are associated with Brighton & Hove, but aren’t restricted to that area – credit card sized cards are produced to order, to the user’s requirements.

JAM Card– intended to communicate “Just A Minute” for people who need to take a bit longer when communicating or completing tasks.

Sunflower lanyards and other items – used to indicate any sort of hidden disability. These are becoming relatively well known, meaning that they could easily act as magnets for pickpockets and other people with less than pleasant intentions. It’s worth looking at the more discrete items than the lanyards eg. the travel wallets, pin badges, wrist bands.

Priority seating

Some of the train operating companies have created schemes to issue priority cards or badges to particular groups of people who hav difficulty standing during train journeys. I haven’t included reference here to the schemes aimed at people who are pregnant. Some of these cover buses and trams as well. The ones requiring documentation probably involve too much bureaucracy for anybody who is able / confident enough to ask for a seat, as they convey no entitlement to a seat and are intended as an aid to persuade other passengers to give up their seats. But there are probably people for whom the bureaucracy burden is worth it, so it is worth knowing about them.

c2c – require certain documentation before they will issue a badge indicating a need for a priority seat.

Great Northern Rail – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Great Western Railway require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Greater Anglia are offering two varieties of “please offer me a seat” badges at certain train stations / on request. They also offer a priority seating card on receipt of certain documentation.

London Northwestern Railway – are unclear about whether they require documentation to issue priority seating cards.

Nottingham City Transport (together with Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Express Transit) offer both “please offer me a seat” badges and “happy to stand for you badges” to anybody who wants them.

South Eastern Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card and badge.

Southern – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Thameslink Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card.

Transport for Greater Manchester send out “please offer me a seat” badges on request.

Transport for London – send out “please offer me a seat” badges and cards to anyone in Greater London and South East England who asks for one.

West Midlands Network offer “please offer me a seat” badges and cards on request to people who live in the west midlands.

West Midlands Railway – require certain documentation before they will issue a priority seat card

Transport Assistance Cards – buses

A number of the bigger bus companies have produced Transport Assistance Cards, generally in the form of .pdf files that can be downloaded and printed, so you can cut out and add the relevant cards to your travel wallet so they can be shown to the bus driver. They are mostly repetitive, with the occasional card that’s specific to one operator. You could always go for a blank piece of paper/card with your own message.

Like the journey assistance cards made by the train operating companies these are probably most useful for people who have difficulties communicating in spoken English. These ones are also potentially useful where:

  • you want to use written communication to avoid drawing other passengers’ attention to your communication [eg. you might want the driver to know to wait till you’ve sat down before moving off, without disclosing your balance difficulties to everyone else on the bus]
  • you have to do a lot of communicating about your needs and it helps you to not have to do all of it verbally / to use a visual reinforcement.

Some of the cards I’ve found are:

Generic request form – for sending to your local bus company if you don’t have printing facilities.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport make two generic pages of cards, intended for bus companies to “personalise” – page one and page two


First Group

Nottingham City Transport

Travel South Yorkshire provide printable cards in both colour and black and white.