Sunderland bus drivers try being blind

Registered blind RNIB campaigner Peter Carling from Pennywell with Reading Transport CEO James Freeman
Registered blind RNIB campaigner Peter Carling from Pennywell with Reading Transport CEO James Freeman
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WEARSIDERS suffering from sight loss gave bus drivers a taste of the difficulties they face when using buses.

Claire Parker, from Hendon, Peter Carling, from Pennywell, and Elaine Lithgoe, who also lives in the city, travelled to Reading to find out how bus travel could be improved for people who have sight loss.

They joined Norman Baker, Under Secretary for Transport, along with bus drivers and managers to take part in the first ever Swap with Me event.

As part of the day, Mr Baker donned simulation specs to discover the barriers that people with sight loss deal with when trying to board a bus.

He said: “I think it’s really good to do because it makes you realise the difficulties you’d face if you had sight loss.

“It’s quite daunting and something people take for granted, as you don’t realise the obstacles you’d face with normal everyday tasks.”

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and other campaigners are calling on Stagecoach, Go Ahead and Arriva in the North East to make getting a bus a better experience.

It comes after a new RNIB survey of blind and partially sighted people revealed issues included not being able to see an approaching bus in time to halt it, missing a service they want and buses which stop away from the official bus stop, causing them to step off into hazards such as bins and lampposts.

Claire, who is a RNIB volunteer campaign co-ordinator, said: “I have asked the bus companies to address the point of how they will make hailing a bus accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

“How are you supposed to use a request bus stop if you can’t see the bus number when it goes past, or even know if the bus is coming.

“Only Nexus, who are preparing the Quality Contract option for how buses will be run in the future, have so far responded to us on this issue.

“On the Metro, which Nexus are already currently responsible for, there are now proper audio announcement on every Metro car and every staff member has had specific training on how to help passengers with sight loss.

“The bus companies commitments so far leave blind and partially sighted people asking why on earth they would support what they’re offering passengers like me.

“The proposed partnership falls far short of giving us our independence, all we want is a bus service we can use on equal terms with everyone else so we can get around.”

Mr Baker spoke to those who attended the event and declared that a programme of work to ensure all buses are made fully accessible is on target.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho