Accessible Travel in Brighton and Hove forum success with transport providers
Blind and partially sighted people (BPS) met with transport providers at East Sussex Sight Loss Council’s first ever forum to discuss key issues most important to them. The event was held on 3 August at the American Express Community Stadium (home to Brighton and Hove Albion football club).
The forum provided an opportunity for guest speakers to share what is currently available for BPS people. It also enabled BPS attendees to ask questions, share experiences and give their feedback on what improvements can be made to make services even more inclusive.
Key topics and speakers
Key accessibility topics focused on trains, buses, taxis, talking bus stops and walking. Guest speakers included Govia Thameslink Railways, Brighton and Hove Buses, and representatives from Brighton and Hove City Council.
Of these talks, Carl Martin, Accessibility Lead for Govia Thameslink Railways, began by mapping out the customer journey. He discussed potential pain points. He also advised attendees on what is currently in place to make travelling by train more accessible and less intimidating. This includes the Passenger Assistance app by Transreport. He said:
“Today has been a brilliant session and a great example of how you can come together as a collaborative group to share all the things that are available to give people the confidence to travel. It has been great to get feedback from the Sight Loss Council around areas we can look to improve overall, and Govia Thameslink Railways will continue to be committed to making the railway accessible for all.”
The positive changes that Brighton and Hove buses have brought into effect was immediately acknowledged by BPS attendees. Victoria Garcia, Accessibility and Community Manager, explained the three-tier policy adopted as a company which has enabled this change. This means that all staff, irrespective of ranking, are required to complete sighted guide training at a minimum of Level 1 – My Guide training.
She also made attendees aware of the Helping Hand assistance card. This yellow card holds a brief written instruction that can be shown upon boarding the bus, so the driver is immediately aware of the passenger’s requirements. She said:
“Everyone of us will have an accessibility issue at one point in our lives, and this is why this work is so important”.
Richard Johnson, Public Transport Officer for Brighton and Hove City Council, then shared practical advice related to bus stops. This included how to use the ‘react key fob’. He outlined plans of an audit due to take place at all bus stops across Brighton and Hove and welcomed feedback from attendees on areas of concern. He said:
“Today has been an amazing opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to share their personal experiences of using public transport. This gives all of us, as providers, inside knowledge on how we can improve it and make it more accessible for everybody”.
“So much more can be done around access to information, not just around Talking Real Time signs, but being able to access the same information at all bus stops. We are working with bus operators to look at ways of improving things, in particular with Brighton and Hove Buses”.
David Smith, Engagement Manager for South East Sight Loss Councils, said:
“I don’t think we could have done much more to have improved the day. Comments from guests have been amazing and all of the guest speakers have thanked me for inviting them and for being part of such an enjoyable and interesting day.”
Victoria Garcia, Accessibility and Communities Manager at Brighton & Hove Buses and Metrobus, added:
“A huge thank you to David Smith and all the team for inviting Brighton & Hove Buses to speak at the Sight Loss Council’s very first transport accessibility event. Listening and learning from the lived experiences of blind and partially sighted people is vital in ensuring our services are more accessible. This was a fantastic opportunity to do exactly this.
“All our buses have audio and visual next stop announcements, white screen destination screens, low step boarding and contrasting colours.
“To ensure all our colleagues can assist passengers, if required, front line staff, senior managers and our directors, have Sighted My Guide Training with guide dogs.
“We look forward to our further partnership working with the Thomas Pocklington Trust and the Sight Loss Council as this will ensure we can always continue to rightly improve on the service we provide”.
Feedback from delegates
The Sight Loss Council received very positive feedback about their first ever East Sussex forum.
Louise Wicks, Higher Intervention Worker for East Sussex Vision Support, said:
“The whole event has been really beneficial. Many of our clients are new to sight loss and have no idea what is available to them. You just don’t know that there is this help until you come to something like this!”
Steve, one of the BPS guests, said:
“What a great event. I’ve learnt so much from attending that I didn’t know. This includes finding out more about the talking bus stops and react key fob as well as being reminded about the new passenger assist app for the trains”.
Tony, another BPS guest, said:
“What a great event. Thanks so much for hosting. It’s been really interesting”.
He, along with some other guests, took the opportunity to say thank you to Brighton and Hove buses for their committed and considered approach to accessibility on buses:
“The work that Victoria and Sam are doing to ensure that everyone that uses the bus service, particularly for people with a disability, are considered and catered for. It is amazing and it’s a shame that other bus providers across the country aren’t anywhere near as good”.
Learn more about East Sussex Sight Loss Council
- National Rail Passenger Assistance
- Thameslink Accessible travel policy
- Brighton & Hove Buses: Information to assist passengers with sight loss
Publication date: 11 August 2022