Eleven of our campaigners from across South Wales swapped places with Stagecoach bus drivers to raise awareness of the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face when using public transport.
The group visited the Stagecoach bus depot in Blackwood on Thursday 10 October for a “Swap With Me” event. As part of the event, drivers were given Sim Specs, designed to replicate various eye conditions, so they could experience bus journeys from the point of view of blind and partially sighted people.
The campaigners and drivers also discussed good and bad bus experiences, and how services could be made more accessible across Wales.
Lee Alder, 50, who has Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and has been blind since birth, was one of the campaigners who joined the event.
Lee said: “I have recently started leaving the house again after a period of not feeling able to get out and about. Now I use the bus all the time and the drivers in my area recognise me and are very understanding, but this is not always the case and many people feel that bus drivers often forget that we need a bit more assistance.
“Blind and partially sighted people often need help boarding buses, especially if there’s a gap between the curb. It also helps if the driver helps us to put our pass on the machine, asks us where we will be getting off, and waits for us to find a seat before driving away. It is exceptionally important to raise these issues with bus drivers to help them understand what blind and partially sighted bus users need.
“The Swap With Me event was a fantastic day out. Stagecoach were brilliant and it was great to talk to the drivers. It really felt like they listened and took on board what we were saying. Many of them said that the simulation helped to change their perspective on visual impairment, which is encouraging to hear.”
Simon Furley, Training and Development Manager for Stagecoach in South Wales said: “The drivers from our depots who took part in the event all found it enlightening. It helps our staff to better understand the difficulties that blind and partially sighted people encounter on public transport. We hope that the volunteers found the demonstrations useful and it has helped to build their confidence when using public transport.”
RNIB Cymru Campaigns Officer Kirsty James said: “Thank you to Stagecoach for hosting us at the Blackwood depot and listening to the concerns of our campaigners. By taking part the company has made a great step towards making bus travel more accessible for people with sight loss long-term.”