First Bus is providing its drivers with specific training designed to help people who are blind or partially sighted to confidently use the bus.
The operator begins training each of its 17,000 UK drivers from September. In designing the bespoke training package for its drivers, First has worked closely with the charity Guide Dogs, who provide the My Guide sighted guiding scheme.
The training includes encouraging drivers to either verbally guide or physically assist customers who may have problems with their sight to their seats, and urging them to alert customers when their stop is approaching. In training, drivers will also be blindfolded so they can play the role of a blind passenger and therefore better understand their needs and concerns.
Each driver will receive a Guide Dogs certificate and badge at the end of the training.
Barbara Bedford, Customer Service and Communications Director for First Bus, said: “We are setting new standards of customer service across our operations in the UK. By improving our customer proposition we will encourage more people to travel by bus and to travel by bus more often.
“As part of our commitment to improve customer service we will work with a number of disability groups to understand how the company can provide better services.
“We’ve already taken steps to make life a little easier for customers with disabilities. All our new buses have been designed with extra space at the front of the bus and fitted with more grab rails, which should provide customers who are blind or partially sighted with a little bit more support and reassurance.”
Guide Dogs Sighted Guide Ambassador for Leeds, Pam Stringer, added: “Freedom and independence are a crucial part of life, regardless of how much you can or cannot see. The My Guide scheme from Guide Dogs trains people as sighted guides who can confidently assist people who are blind or partially sighted when out and about. We hope this improved service will go a long way in empowering people to use the bus who currently lack the confidence to venture out alone.”