Trading places

21 October 2016

Transport Focus has done a lot of work in recent years to encourage better training for bus drivers, especially on helping disabled passengers.

Buses play a vital role for visually-impaired passengers, who for obvious reasons, cannot drive. It is one of the elements that enables them to live more independent lives, but they need to be sure that the service will meet their needs. Good staff training and audio systems are key components in delivering successful bus travel for many categories of passenger, disabled or not.

We were particularly pleased to see news recently, during National Eye Health Week, of ‘Swap Me’ training sessions at Oxford Bus. Drivers wore special ‘sim specs’ to replicate different types of sight impairment, such as tunnel vision, retinal degeneration and hazy vision.

They had to behave like visually-impaired passengers and negotiate their way onto the bus, pay their fare and then make their way to a seat. Such elements are vital in training so that staff fully appreciate the difficulties which some passengers face and for whom using a bus is more difficult than for those with good eyesight.

Visually-impaired passengers will know just how difficult this can be. Indeed, even recognising whether it is a bus approaching the stop or another heavy vehicle is just one of the problems facing bus users with sight loss. Then, determining whether it is the right route is another poser for many bus passengers, and that is before they have managed to get on.

We very much welcome the news that Oxford is looking to fulfil its commitment that all new vehicles should be ‘talking buses’. It is important that visually-impaired people should know when they are approaching their bus stop, but it would also be helpful to have buses that confirmed the route number as they pulled up to help passengers waiting at the stop.

Equally important though are courtesy and thoughtfulness, including:

  • pulling up as close to the kerb as possible to make it easier to get on and off
  • not driving off before vulnerable passengers have sat down
  • speaking clearly.
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