Campaign for better bus service for the blind
09:49 16 October 2012
A blind Mattishall woman who missed her last bus home from Norwich city centre is part of a national campaign to make bus travel easier for people with sight problems.
Kate Healey, 22, a technology co-ordinator for Action for Blind People at Cringleford Business Centre, was waiting on St Stephen’s Street after work but the driver did not shout out the bus number.
A new campaign has been launched by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) urging bus drivers to improve communication for the blind or partially sighted called “Stop for me, speak to me”.
Miss Healey said: “There was no-one to come and collect us but fortunately one of the drivers asked her boss if he could drive us home after his shift, so we were able to get home.”
But she added: “I’d definitely use buses more if I knew and trusted that the bus driver would tell me when my stop was. It’s a confidence thing with me. I’d rather use the bus independently if I knew the driver would talk to me more.”
The campaign calls on operators to stop for blind and partially sighted people, particularly at request stops which currently put the onus on the customer to signal for the bus, and provide clearer spoken information.
Miss Healey said her regular bus operator is usually very good at telling her which stop to get off at but she “struggles” in Norwich city centre.
“I have to count the roundabouts and bumps in the road to work out where I am and when to get off. It can be stressful, as I really have to concentrate and I have got off at the wrong place before,” she added.
Miss Healey said the experience has “dented her confidence”.
Fazilet Hadi, director of the RNIB Inclusive Society, said: “Catching a bus should not be a sight test. Local bus travel is a lifeline, providing important means of transport within the community for those not able to drive.
“Buses are often the most affordable way to travel independently to work, appointments and to visit friends and family.
“However the difficulties that blind and partially sighted people face in making journeys, that other people often take for granted, are unacceptable and often unnecessary.”
Ms Hadi added: “We do not believe that any driver wants to leave anyone behind at a bus stop, or ignore a blind customer’s request for spoken information.
“The RNIB has heard from many blind and partially sighted people who have good experiences on buses, and with drivers, but there are too many having bad experiences and having their independence limited which is putting them off using their local bus service.”
For more information about the campaign, visit www.rnib.org.uk/bus or alternatively call the RNIB helpline on 0303 1239999.