Paws on the Platform

A large group of people and guide dogs posing for a group photo in front of the entrance to Maidstone East station.

Paws on the Platform aimed to highlight the practical barriers that people with visual impairments must overcome when travelling by train. The event brought people with a visual impairment together with Southeastern’s management team to share their experience of accessing rail services, to increase understanding of the difficulties that those with a visual impairment encounter when travelling by train and begin a discussion about how that experience can be improved.

The event was organised in collaboration with the Maidstone Fundraising Group of Guide Dogs, Maidstone Guide Dogs Community Team and Southeastern.


Guide Dogs staff, volunteers, local guide dog owners and a long cane user were at the heart of the activities. They agreed to be shadowed by members of Southeastern’s management team for the journey and share their lived experience of using rail services with them.


Guide Dogs Community Team had invited the Mayor of Maidstone, Cllr Gordon Newton, Kent County Councillor Shelina Prendergast and other guests to be blindfolded and accompanied by a trained “My Sighted Guide” through their own rail travel experience.


Everybody went through the steps of buying a ticket at Maidstone East, finding the right platform, boarding the train, locating a seat and getting off the train at Hollingbourne station.


At Hollingbourne Guide Dogs volunteers had worked with the Signal Box Cafe to provide everyone with an afternoon tea. We listened to presentations from Guide Dogs staff, guide dog users, the Mayor of Maidstone and Southeastern highlighting how important it was to share learning, encourage engagement and understand the lived experiences of people with visual impairments to secure changes and embed best practice as standard.

Key learning points included how the correct use of tactile paving provides an indication of stairways and platform edges, the need for clear announcements at stations and onboard trains and the value placed on having Southeastern staff available at stations and onboard trains to give help and assistance when required.

Diane Proctor, a member of the Maidstone Fundraising Group of Guide Dogs said: “Travelling by train can be incredibly challenging for people with sight loss as it can be difficult to know which platform to board the train and when it has reached the right station. Paws on the Platform offers a unique opportunity for key decision makers to be guided through a blindfold train journey experience to help them understand the difficulties that those with a visual impairment encounter when travelling by train and how that experience can be improved. We are delighted to be working with Kent Community Rail Partnership on this consultation event with support from staff at Southeastern.”


Therese Hammond, Project Officer Kent Community Rail Partnership said: “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Guide Dogs and to be hosting this event on our Kent Downs Line and at our new community café at Hollingbourne station.  The practical barriers that people in our community with sight loss experience when travelling by train will be highlighted and with Southeastern’s support we will endeavour to improve their future train travel experiences.”


We would like to thank the staff and volunteer teams of Guide Dogs for their help and expertise in planning the event, the management team from Southeastern for embracing the opportunity to learn from the lived experience of people with visual impairments, and the people who were willing to join our Paws on the Platform experience to share their stories. 

A sleepy looking guide dog lying on a station platform