“Small changes make a big difference”
On the 27th of August, Black Country Sight Loss Council teamed up with National Express to deliver its first-ever ‘Meet the Buses’ event at Wolverhampton bus depot.
The event gave blind and partially sighted people the opportunity to walk through the layout of different bus styles, chat to drivers and training managers about their experiences and discuss how changes can be made to improve the accessibility of buses in the region.
Bus drivers, driver trainers and National Express representatives listened to blind and partially sighted customers talk about their experiences and concerns and addressed their questions.
Sight Loss Council member Meena talked about her struggle to travel independently on buses as both a visually and hearing impaired person, she said:
“If a bus is busy, being able to find a seat in a moving bus can be a frustrating experience.”
“Our job is our passengers’ safety.”
Hearing directly about the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face on local buses significantly impacted the bus drivers in attendance. Talking about the day’s event, Billy, a National Express bus driver of 20 years, said:
“I think it’s brilliant. It’s fantastic, and it’s an eye-opener. Every driver should take more precaution. Our job is our passengers’ safety.”
Sim Spec success!
Bus drivers, trainers and National Express representatives had the chance to try various Simulation Spectacles (Sim Specs), which simulate the different sight conditions many visually impaired passengers have. By trying on the sim-specs, SLC members demonstrated how difficult it could be for blind or partially sighted people to get on a bus and find a seat, especially if a bus is crowded or in motion.
After trying to board the bus while wearing a pair of the sim-specs, one bus driver said:
“It’s an experience. I can imagine how difficult it is. Hence why drivers should take more precautions when disabled people do get on our buses.”
National Express representative Natasha Rabone talked about the possibility of introducing sim specs into National Express’ driver training so that recruits can use them and see what it’s like for visually impaired people boarding their buses. She said:
“Everyone should have an understanding of what other people have to go through on a daily basis.”
Small Changes can make a big difference
After chatting to bus drivers, exchanging experiences, concerns and questions, the most significant takeaway of the day was simple— small and simple changes can make all the difference!
Waiting for a visually impaired passenger to take their seat before driving off, ensuring audio announcements are switched on, and lowering the ramp can make it a more pleasant journey for blind and partially sighted passengers.
Where to next?
The event proved to be a great success, with 46 people in attendance, including 16 blind and partially sighted customers, 17 bus drivers, three training managers and a National Express customer service manager.
More ‘Meet the Buses’ events may be in the pipeline across Sight Loss Councils, so stay tuned!
Following this event, National Express will continue to work closely with Black Country Sight Loss Council to ensure that their blind and partially sighted customers are better catered for.
If you would like to advocate for better accessible travel in your area, get involved and join a Sight Loss Council near you!
First Bus: Social distancing information video
Bristol Sight Loss Council worked with First Bus on a video with social distancing information for blind and partially sighted passengers.