My name is Emma Allen-Taylor I am the Engagement Officer for the Manchester Mobility Team of Guide Dogs. As part of my job I deal with access issues that our guide dog owners struggle with on a daily basis.
Unfortunately problems with bus travel in Manchester and across the North West are all too familiar when you are blind or partially sighted. Things that sighted people take for granted can be a real worry, for example seeing the correct bus number, recognising when your bus is approaching rather than a lorry, presenting your pass, finding an empty seat, getting off at the correct stop and worrying if the driver has pulled up close enough to the kerb or in a place clear of immediate obstruction. This can make what should be a straight forward task a momentous undertaking.
Worsley guide dog owner Joan Reed gave an example of how she’d been affected
“I had a really bad experience when using a local bus. I had asked the driver to tell me when to get off at ‘the stocks’. I checked with another passenger when I had been on the bus what seemed to be a long time, the bus had taken me about two miles passed my stop. I ended up by the busy A6 road, it was a wet, cold day and I had to walk all the way back.”
The Guide Dogs’ Road to Nowhere Survey shows 82% of people with sight loss in the North West say they are unable to enjoy the freedom that others take for granted because they find travelling by bus so difficult. 60% have been put off visiting friends and family, and 35% have missed out on social occasions like birthday parties.
Guide Dogs want the Government to update regulations, meaning all buses need to be ‘Talking Buses’, fitted with on-board audio-visual (AV) technology which announces routes, destinations and stops. Audio announcements on buses make a massive difference to passengers with sight loss. They would also help other passengers. How much easier would it be when traveling somewhere new, or at night, or when the windows steam up in the rain, if your bus announced the next stop. We also want more training for bus drivers, so they know how to support passengers who are blind and partially sighted.
We’d also really like to see Transport for Greater Manchester bid for funding under the Government Better Bus Areas scheme to fit AV in buses for the benefit of all passengers. Guide Dogs will continue to work alongside local MPs like John, as well as with local bus companies to provide their drivers with sight loss awareness training. We urge companies wishing to participate in this training to contact the Manchester Mobility Team on 0845 372 7409.
You can contact Emma on 07825 716 862
- The “Road to Nowhere” survey was conducted between October 2012 and March 2013. Over 450 people responded from across the United Kingdom, including blind and partially sighted people (including non-guide dog owners), people with hearing problems and wheelchair users. 370 people identified themselves as either guide dog owners or blind or partially sighted.
- Guide Dogs is calling for compulsory audio visual announcements to be included in the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations 2003 and the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 to ensure all buses across the UK are talking. This would bring buses in line with other forms of public transport, such as trains.
- Transport Minister Norman Baker announced a new Better Bus Areas fund for local authorities and bus companies to improve passengers’ experiences in February 2013 South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive have already successfully bid for audio visual technology to be fitted to buses under this funding stream .
- For more information about the Talking Buses campaign please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/talkingbuses or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association:
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is a British charitable organisation founded in 1934. Guide Dogs provides independence and freedom to thousands of blind and partially sighted people across the UK through the provision of guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services. It also campaigns passionately for the rights of those with visual impairments. Guide Dogs is working towards a society in which blind and partially sighted people enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.