RNIB calls for operators to remove bus barriers

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Stop for me, Speak to me campaign launched to help ensure drivers do more to help blind and partially sighted people

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has launched its bus campaign ‘Stop for me, Speak to me.’

It is calling on bus operators to remove the barriers blind and partially sighted people face when making bus journeys including trying to flag down, board and get off a bus at the right stop.

An RNIB survey of blind and partially sighted people revealed a number of barriers:

Six in 10 people said buses which stopped away from the official bus stop caused them to often miss their bus or step off the bus into hazards such as bins and lampposts.

Over half of respondents said they had difficulty obtaining spoken information from the driver such as the bus number and destination.

Many respondents found it difficult to hear the driver through the assault screens, meaning they couldn’t obtain the necessary verbal information they needed to make their journey.

Fazilet Hadi, RNIB’s Director of Inclusive Society, said: “Catching a bus should not be a sight test. Local bus travel is a lifeline, providing an important means of transport within the community for those who are not able to drive. Buses are often the only affordable way to travel independently to work, appointments or to visit friends and family. However, the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face in making journeys which other people often take for granted are unacceptable and often unnecessary. We want operators to remember one simple principle: Stop for me, Speak to me.”

Shirley Grisedale, 62, from Penrith in Cumbria, is registered blind. She said: “I have been left stranded at the bus stop when buses have sailed past me and not stopped. Because I live in quite a rural area, a lot of the stops are not compulsory stops and therefore the drivers won’t stop if you don’t stick out your arm.

“Once I am on the bus, it can be frustrating as the drivers often don’t talk to you and stay silent. It can be frightening when they forget to tell you when your stop is and you end up in an unfamiliar place or at the station and a friend has to come and get you.”

The report is calling on bus operators to:

  • Ensure all drivers stop for blind and partially sighted people waiting at a bus stop because nine in 10 cannot see to hail it;
  • Ensure all drivers speak to blind and partially sighted people boarding the bus because the majority struggle to get clear information from the driver – without accessible information many cannot travel;
  • Ensure all drivers always check the official bus stop for waiting blind and partially sighted customers and provide clear spoken information to them – nods and gestures are not helpful to someone with sight loss; and
  • Include a slide open section in any new or replacement assault screens to enable drivers to clearly speak to customers with sight loss.

New EU Passenger Rights Regulations come into force on March 1, 2013. The new rights awarded to disabled people offer more protection than the Equality Act, particularly in terms of access to travel information and assistance.

James Freeman, CEO of Reading Transport, said: “I think treating every stop as a request stop is not the right way to run a service – not just because of people with sight loss who may not be able to see the bus, but for anyone who might be unsure. At Reading Buses the rule is drivers should stop when someone is standing at a bus stop. This is a simple rule which benefits all users.”

Ms Hadi added: “We do not believe any driver wants to leave anyone behind at a bus stop or ignore a blind customer’s request for spoken information. 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 visit www.rnib.org.uk/bus or call 0303 123 9999.