Forth Valley Sensory Centre

Bus travel when you are blind

Bus users from Forth Valley Sensory Centre met with local MSP Michael Matheson, First Midland Bluebird Operations Manager Jason Hackett and Chris Cox, Falkirk Council Sustainable Transport Manager, this week to talk about improving accessibility to public transport for people with sight loss and disabled people in general.

The meeting followed feedback from blind and partially sighted people about the issues they now face accessing buses in Falkirk Town Centre following the closure of the bus station a few months ago.

Getting around Falkirk when you can’t see

Mr Matheson, representing his constituents in Falkirk West, listened to the concerns raised before trying out special ‘sim specs’ which replicate a number of different eye conditions to try to safely board and alight from a bus.

Larbert Depot Operations Manager Jason Hackett and Chris Cox joined him in Newmarket Street to try out the sim specs and listen to customers. Mr Hackett has previously instructed drivers to take more time with disabled passengers and encouraged driver training to understand more about the effects of sight loss.

Forth Valley Sensory Centre Manager Jacquie Winning said:
“For many people with sight loss, public transport is the only way to get around. One of the reasons for the location of the Centre in Camelon was because of the excellent transport links. However, the closure of Falkirk bus station and information centre has hit disabled passengers hardest. Previously there was a set stance for each bus, now there are multiple buses using the same bus stop. For people who cannot see the bus numbers, this can be confusing and easy to board the wrong bus.

“Without access to an information centre too, even getting the right bus stop or understanding a timetable can be a real challenge. It was these concerns that we brought to the table.

“We were delighted that our local MSP, Bus Operator and Council are keen to find solutions and understand the challenges for themselves. Our partners, RNIB have made public transport a priority with the ‘Bus Charter’ and hopefully a suitable solution will be found shortly.”

Local MSP experiences bus travel with sight loss

This was the latest in a series of meetings and events aimed at helping drivers and disabled passengers have the best possible experience on the area’s buses. It followed on from sensory awareness training in Falkirk and Stirling with First Bus, which led to a number of improvements in services, including keeping doors shut until blind passengers are ready to disembark.

Michael Matheson MSP commented:
“I’m grateful to Forth Valley Sensory Centre for inviting me along to get a better understanding of the problems faced by blind and partially sighted constituents as they attempt to get about town.

“Trying out the sim specs was a very effective way to gain first-hand experience of the problems they encounter on their journeys and helped me to really appreciate the concerns raised.

“I want our public transport to be accessible to as many people as possible and I’d be happy to keep in touch with Forth Valley Sensory Centre and First Bus to try to help find ways in which we can ensure smoother journeys for blind and partially sighted bus users in Falkirk district.”

Jason Hackett, Operations Manager for Larbert Depot added:
“First Midland Bluebird are delighted at the chance to work in partnership with the Forth Valley Sensory Centre and Falkirk Council. We are always looking to improve our service and welcome all forms of customer feedback that focus on making bus accessibility easier for our customers”

For more information on Forth Valley Sensory Centre, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Search for @FVSensoryCentre

Mr Matheson is pictured with a number of Centre Users and Centre Manager Jacquie Winning. He, Mr Cox and Mr Hackett are all wearing a pair of ‘sim specs’ to replicate different eye conditions for boarding a bus.

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