Essex SLC partner with Greater Anglia railway

Essex Sight Loss Council has partnered with Greater Anglia railway to increase the accessibility of its services for blind and partially sighted people.

Sight Loss Councils (SLC) across the country are working with transport providers to #MakeTransportAccessible. This work focusses on raising awareness and demanding change at both local and national levels.

Our work with Greater Anglia

Essex SLC met with Greater Anglia’s Access and Inclusion Manager in Spring 2023. They worked together to ensure that blind and partially sighted (BPS) people are represented at key stakeholder meetings. As a stakeholder, Essex SLC represents the BPS community at a range of meetings, to ensure their views are heard.

SLC members have carried out impact assessments across stations to raise awareness of the needs of BPS passengers. Stations include Billericay, Chelmsford, Stowmarket, and Wymondham. SLC members fed back on station signage and tactile markings, making recommendations on how these could be improved. Subsequently, Greater Anglia has began to roll out high contrast signage at some of its stations. Members have also created a written description of the step free access to platform two at Chelmsford Station.

Greater Anglia staff members stood at a table, wearing black blindfolds, and trying to pair odd socks up.

Greater Anglia staff trying to pair socks, blindfolded, as part of a vision awareness session

More recently, Essex SLC delivered a vision awareness session to management staff at Colchester station. Staff were enthusiastic and engaged throughout the session, and SLC members shared examples of their own lived experience. Participants took part in a quiz, before completing practical activities whilst wearing simulation spectacles (sim specs). These are special glasses which mirror some of the various sight conditions many BPS people have. They give the wearer a unique insight into living with sight loss.

Tasks included pairing up socks whilst blindfolded, reading a restaurant menu, and navigating a station using a small print tube map. This is a great exercise as it highlights how different each sight condition is, and how challenging everyday activities can be for BPS people.

Following these activities staff engaged in a question and answer session, followed by discussions on the most common misconceptions about sight loss. Participants then practiced sighted guiding techniques.

Looking ahead

Essex SLC will continue its work with Greater Anglia and have several engagements already planned for 2024. We will continue to support them and look forward to delivering vision awareness sessions to frontline staff.

Greater Anglia staff members are stood together, wearing sim-specs, trying to read tube maps with them on.

Greater Anglia staff members reading tube maps whilst wearing sim-specs

Partner feedback

Samantha Leftwich, Engagement Manager for East England, said:

“It was great to continue our engagement with Greater Anglia and deliver a vision awareness session to staff. It was great to work with a team that was so engaged in the session and asked some brilliant questions.

“Greater Anglia has demonstrated its willingness and drive to make train travel more inclusive to BPS people. This is fantastic!

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the team, and exploring ways we can make positive changes across the network together.”

Lee Mercer, Essex SLC member, said:

“Travelling has always posed some of the biggest challenges to blind and partially sighted people.

“Greater Anglia has shown that they are committed to working with us to ensure our experience of train travel is smooth, safe, and stress-free. It shows a fantastic commitment to inclusion on the rail network.

“Knowing that I can trust the people and the systems when I use Greater Anglia means I can just relax and enjoy the journey.”

Lee Andrews, Project Control and Compliance Manager at Greater Anglia, said:

“The vision awareness session was engaging and interesting. Its delivery was relaxed and made me feel that I could ask any question – however silly or obvious it may have seemed.

“I would highly recommend this session to my colleagues and others.”

Laura Young, Organisational Development Manager and Insights Client Practitioner, Greater Anglia, added:

“I am very proud to have supported my colleagues in piloting a vision awareness session, hosted by Essex Sight Loss Council.

“It is so very important that we are able to assist our blind and partially sighted customers to ensure they reach their destination safely and confidently.

“It was a very insightful and engaging session.”

Greater Anglia staff during the sighted guide session. A male staff member is wearing sim-specs, and being guided to a red chair by a female colleague.

A Greater Anglia staff member during the sighted guide session as colleague guides him to a seat

Join Essex Sight Loss Council

Essex Sight Loss Council is recruiting new members who live in the local area.

If you are blind and partially sighted and want to improve services for visually impaired people, we want to hear from you.

You’ll get the opportunity to create positive change for others, meet like-minded people, have a voice, receive training and enhance your skills. If you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for you to get involved in.

Join us

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Publication date: 29 February 2024

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