TTC Priority Seats: you can’t always tell

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  • You Can’t Always Tell was developed when the TTC — the Toronto Transit Commission — asked Barrett and Welsh to pitch for its business (while we didn’t win, we remain big fans of the TTC). We were asked to develop a campaign to educate riders about its new, blue priority seating. The TTC wanted riders to be aware they should voluntarily offer a priority seat to other riders who appeared to require it or who requested it. But it is not always possible to tell whether a person needs a blue seat based on their appearance or use of assistive equipment. There are numerous needs that are not immediately apparent, conditions that cause invisible disabilities, crippling pain, fatigue and cognitive dysfunctions to name only a few. Because not all needs are obvious, leading transit organizations globally are going beyond “appearances” when it comes to priority seating and moving towards inclusion of all needs, seen and unseen.

    We saw this as an opportunity for the TTC brand to champion this cause in Toronto. Rather than ask the able-bodied rider to vacate a seat when asked, or when it was obvious, we chose to say, “You can’t always tell. You can’t judge the need or ability of others but you can judge your own.” Each ad showed three riders, only one of them with a visible need. And we challenged the reader to identify which two riders deserved to be offered a priority seat: an impossible task to complete. It was a simple, direct message, designed to make the able-bodied think twice before sitting in a priority seat. Barrett and Welsh was not awarded the assignment but we are very proud of the work we did and the recognition it has received.