POLICY and systems are too often in Scotland, and in most nations, made without an understanding of marginalised communities.

We hear about the need for “equality and inclusion”, but these are tick-boxes.

Even when we talk of equality and inclusion, people such as me, not just a woman of colour but also neurodiverse, are simply ignored. It angers me that it is still necessary to write this, but I persist in the hope – the need – for a fairer world.

An example of where this is ignored is in the plans for a “just transition”. This, in a very broad sense, is Scotland’s roadmap to an environmentally sustainable and fair future delivered in a way that ensures everyone is included.

There are many parts to the just transition plan, including green employment, green spaces, and better urban development. For me, one that specifically stands out is travel.

How does Scotland move towards more environmentally conscious travel?

This one is important because, having been diagnosed as autistic in October 2022, travel is what causes me the most anxiety and, unfortunately, travel in Scotland just isn’t friendly to neurodivergent people.

With the growing public attention on what it means to be neurodivergent, it can seem like a new trend. But this is not some trend and to be reductive in this way is hugely disrespectful to the thousands of people who have this life-altering disability.

What it means to be neurodivergent is starting to become more understood, especially as the recognition of these neurological disorders are finally being acknowledged.

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Though it can vary depending on who you might ask, neurodivergence broadly covers disorders such as autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and schizophrenia. It can also include the likes of OCD, Down’s Syndrome, and even brain-altering conditions such as eating disorders.

It can be contentious and there usually aren’t many who will agree on one cohesive definition. But what matters is that being neurodivergent does result in real disabilities – with complex support needs – which at times are often hidden.

The National: Chelsea ClayChelsea Clay (Image: Supplied)

For me, being neurodivergent renders me disabled. I have a lot of support needs that must be considered for me to do much of anything. For me to travel anywhere, for example, a lot of planning goes into making sure I can account for almost any scenario.

Take getting the train for instance. I typically pre-pack a bag with everything I might need and I have to plan every part of my journey meticulously. This is because I get overstimulated very easily by smell, lights and noise and this can cause me to shut down completely.

This is what is called a meltdown and it is absolutely paralysing. Once you are in a meltdown there is almost no way of getting out of it. You have to just let it run its course. Not a great thing to experience in public and on your own.

I MUST make sure I can always regulate my surroundings.

This makes travelling exhausting and daunting I have been in many situations where my environment on a bus or train has reduced me to tears and there have been passengers who have moved away, train workers who walk straight past me.

It’s very distressing and is the reason why I tend to not travel on public transport. This means I am limited in what I can do unless

I get help. I have tried to consider other methods of travel, such as active travel, which is any way that requires you to physically move to get from A to B. However, living in a somewhat rural area I am quite removed from anything outside of driving distance, let alone walking or cycling. There also aren’t a lot of options for adaptive bicycles for me to use either.

This leaves me with only two options – have someone drive me who I trust or have someone take public transport with me who I trust.

But they are not always available and therefore I don’t go many places.

This is not unique to me though. There are many neurodivergent people in Scotland with a range of complex needs that make travel an impossibility, especially if they do not live in the big cities.

I must think about not only how I can manage my environment as someone with autism, but as a woman of colour as well. These competing pressures make life very difficult.

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Sometimes I have to focus on how I am being perceived as a person of colour and I have to ignore my autistic needs.

Sometimes my autistic needs are so great that I have to ignore situations where my being of colour is contentious or leads to experiences of racism.

While I don’t think Scotland’s just transition plans can change the way people perceive me in some ways, the inclusion of my neurodivergent identity can certainly make my life, and those of others, easier.

Ensuring those with often misinterpreted and hidden disabilities are considered and carefully included in important areas such as travel can make a significant life difference,

and support a wider range of the population to be able and enthusiastic to use public transport, helping us achieve the just transition Scotland is aiming for.