Norfolk councillors experience Norwich bus ride without sight
Two Norfolk councillors donned goggles to take away their sight yesterday as they experienced the difficulties of using the bus when blind or partially-sighted.
Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy and Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation, wore the goggles as they accompanied a Sprowston woman, who is blind, on her usual commute to work.
The aim for organisers Action for Blind People and the Royal National Institute of Blind People was to raise awareness of the difficulty for visually- impaired people using public transport and highlight the need for concessionary bus passes at all hours, not just off-peak, including a companion.
The councillors joined Bernie Reddington, 42, on her journey to Castle Meadow and then on to Cringleford, using two buses.
Mrs Reddington, of Parkland Road, said: 'It was great to give them the opportunity to experience the holistic impact of that journey.'
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She said that most people did not understand the full implications of being blind and the importance of having a companion. 'Concessionary bus travel is not just a nice thing, it is allowing many to live independently.'
Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said that the experience made him mindful of the challenges faced.
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'You have to be unbelievably trusting with other people. You have to trust they will get you down the road to the bus stop, get upstairs and sit down on a vacant seat.'
He added: 'It was good in explaining the challenges of being visually-impaired and hopefully ways the county council and bus companies can make life easier.' Potential future improvements included putting an audio system to announce bus stops and larger bus timetables.
Since April, pass-holders have only been allowed free bus travel between 9.30am and 11pm in the week and all day at weekends and public holidays.
Mr Murphy said that he was in support of the concessionary bus fare scheme, but needed the government to help cover the current �4.5m shortfall in funding. He also encouraged people to sign the council's Fair Fares petition calling on the government to properly fund the scheme.
For more information, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk
Are you trying to raise awareness for an issue in your community? Call reporter Richard Wood on 01603 772423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org