First UK Bus has become the first national bus operator to pledge its support for a Charter to ensure services are accessible for customers with sight loss.
The Charter has been developed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), following the success of the ‘Stop for me, Speak to me’ bus campaign. As part of the campaign RNIB in partnership with bus operators across the UK hosted ‘swap with me’ events which saw bus drivers ‘swap’ places with blind and partially sighted customers so that they could better understand the challenges the passengers face when using the bus.
First is joined by regional bus operators Reading Bus and Kinchbus in being the first to support the groundbreaking Charter.
The charter was launched at a special event at First’s Chelmsford Bus Depot on Thursday 27 March, with a key note speech by Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer. Blind and partially sighted campaigners attended and took the opportunity to show Baroness Kramer some of the issues they face, for example, hailing the right bus and finding a seat.
Baroness Kramer Quote: “Buses are a lifeline for blind and partially sighted people. I encourage bus companies to embrace RNIB’s charter, which will bring more independence, choice and control to passengers. I am pleased to see operators like First, Reading and Kinch already leading the way.”
Fazilet Hadi, Director of RNIB, said: “We are delighted at the positive and enthusiastic response from First, Reading Buses and Kinch Buses to our Charter. Local bus travel is a lifeline, providing an important means of transport and we want operators to ensure current and future services are accessible.”
Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First UK Bus, said: “We are setting new standards of customer service across our operations in the UK. By improving our customer proposition we will encourage more people to travel by bus and to travel by bus more often.
“As part of our commitment to improve customer service we are working with a number of disability groups to understand how the company can provide better services. I’m delighted that we’ve partnered with RNIB and with its help have organised more than 15 ‘Swap with Me’ events across our UK operations. These initiatives have proved invaluable in better understanding some of the obstacles people who are blind and partially sighted have to overcome when catching the bus.
“Indeed each of our 17,000 drivers are receiving specific training so that they do have a better appreciation of those issues. We are very proud to be the first bus operator to sign RNIB’s ‘Bus Charter’.”
James Freeman from Reading Buses added: “We encourage other operators to actively engage with RNIB to help improve their driver training as well as their understanding of visually impaired people and how they, as operators can be the catalyst to helping break down any barriers that exist to prevent blind and partially sighted passengers from travelling on their buses.”
At the launch Baroness Kramer and representatives from the bus industry took part in a “Swap with Me” activity with blind and partially sighted campaigners. There followed a “round table” discussion on one of First’s hybrid buses which focused on how the Charter can be developed to improve bus accessibility for blind and partially sighted customers.
Join our campaign. If you think blind or partially sighted people shouldn’t be left behind at bus stops visit www.rnib.org.uk/bus or call RNIB’s campaigns hotline on 020 7391 2123.
RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk