Forth Valley Sensory Centre

Sensory awareness on the map for First Bus

First Midland Bluebird bus drivers in Falkirk recently had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges their customers overcome each day by undertaking sensory awareness training with Forth Valley Sensory Centre.

The aim was to supplement existing training by giving drivers the chance to experience what it is like to board a bus with hearing or sight loss. The event was a huge success with many drivers taken aback by just how difficult it can be for people who have a sensory loss to use public transport.

Larbert Deport Operations Manager, Jason Hackett said:

“This was an exercise all about raising awareness amongst our drivers and ensuring we provide the best possible service to our customers. It was heartening to see so many drivers take part and it is something we will certainly look to repeat. Already we are making plans for our in-house training manager to take part in a much longer session on sensory loss so we can provide more support to our drivers and as a result, our customers.”

One driver who came along found her BSL skills tested when she met a number of Deaf people from the Centre.

Rebecca Notley, Driver with First Midland Bluebird commented:

“It’s good to understand the point of view of people with sensory issues and it was great to try out some of the audio and visual aids here today. I also enjoyed having a conversation with people from the centre who are deaf and hearing impaired.

“My mum took a job at Windsor Park School for deaf people and we both learned sign language, so it’s become force of habit to have conversations by signing.

“I like to use it at work when I get a chance. Some deaf people might bring a note on a bus so you sometimes don’t get a chance to assist them as much as you might like but I’m glad to be able to help in any way I can.

“Even learning a few things in sign language can be so valuable and I would encourage everyone to do it.”

Organised by Forth Valley Sensory Centre and the First Midland Bluebird team from the nearby depot in Larbert, a stand at Falkirk Bus Station was closed off to allow drivers to come along on their break and learn about sensory loss.

Centre Manager Jacquie Winning said:

I think our Centre Users who volunteered on the day found it as interesting as the drivers. It is great to see the engagement from First Midland Bluebird and their efforts to make their services as accessible as possible. We would love to hear from more companies and organisations across Forth Valley interested in improving their understanding of sensory loss.”

Drivers were asked to board buses using special ‘simulation glasses’ to replicate different eye conditions and sight loss. They were also given headphones from Silent Knights, to reduce their hearing and allow them to try to lip read “deaf” customers. The training was supported by a number of Centre Users who are regular customers on the buses.

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