The campaign is calling on bus operators to remove the barriers blind and partially sighted people face when making a bus journey.
To help overcome issues such as trying to flag down, board and get off a bus at the right stop, RNIB is calling on bus operators to remember one simple rule: Stop for me, Speak to me.
A new RNIB survey of blind and partially sighted people revealed a number of barriers:
- 6 in 10 people said buses which stopped away from the official bus stop caused them to often miss their bus or step off the bus into hazards such as bins and lampposts
- Over half of respondents said they had difficulty obtaining spoken information from the driver such as the bus number and destination
- Many respondents found it difficult to hear the bus driver through the assault screens meaning they couldn’t obtain the necessary verbal information they needed to make their journey.
Phil Lee, 55, from Colchester, Essex, is registered blind. He said: “I have good days and bad days with the buses. Recently I had a bad day as I had to wait ages for one to stop for me and not go whizzing past. They don’t always tell you what number their bus is, which isn’t very helpful. If a bus is right next to me then I can just about make out the number but I can’t see if it’s far away or approaching.”
Shirley Grisedale, 62, from Penrith in Cumbria, is registered blind. She said: “I have been left stranded at the bus stop when buses have sailed past me and not stopped. Because I live in quite a rural area, a lot of the stops are not compulsory stops and therefore the drivers won’t stop if you don’t stick out your arm.
“Once I am on the bus, it can be frustrating as the drivers often don’t talk to you and stay silent. It can be frightening when they forget to tell you when your stop is and you end up in an unfamiliar place or at the station and a friend has to come and get you.”
The report is calling on bus operators to:
- ensure all drivers stop for blind and partially sighted people waiting at a bus stop because 9 in 10 cannot see to hail it
- ensure all drivers speak to blind and partially sighted people boarding the bus because the majority struggle to get clear information from the driver – without accessible information many cannot travel
- ensure all drivers always check the official bus stop for waiting blind and partially sighted customers and provide clear spoken information to them – nods and gestures are not helpful to someone with sight loss
- include a slide open section in any new or replacement assault screens to enable drivers to clearly speak to customers with sight loss.
Fazilet Hadi, RNIB’s Director of Inclusive Society, said: “Catching a bus should not be a sight test. Local bus travel is a lifeline, providing an important means of transport within the community for those who are not able to drive. Buses are often the only affordable way to travel independently to work, appointments or to visit friends and family. However, the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face in making journeys, that other people often take for granted, are unacceptable and often unnecessary. We want operators to remember one simple principle: Stop for me, Speak to me.”
New EU Regulations on passenger rights in bus and coach transport come into force on 1 March, 2013. The new rights awarded by the EU to disabled people offer more protection than the Equality Act, in particular in terms of access to travel information and assistance.
James Freeman, CEO of Reading Transport, welcomes RNIB’s report and fully supports the campaign.
He said: “I think treating every stop as a request stop is not the right way to run a service, not just because of people with sight loss who may not be able to see the bus, but for anyone who might be unsure. At Reading Buses the rule is that drivers should stop when someone is standing at a bus stop. This is a simple rule that benefits all users.”
RNIB’s research found request stops, which put the onus on the customer to signal they want an approaching bus, are in use by most bus operators across the UK. However the report shows that they significantly disadvantage people with sight loss. Request stops can mean that a blind person has to travel with a friend, ask strangers for help, hold up a large sign with the bus number, or risk missing the bus they want.
Survey respondents told how it’s vital for bus drivers to speak to passengers with sight loss so they can make their journey. However, the survey revealed nearly seven out of ten people said their driver failed to tell them when their stop was approaching.
Ms Hadi added: “We do not believe any driver wants to leave anyone behind at a bus stop or ignore a blind customer’s request for spoken information. RNIB has heard from many blind and partially sighted people who have good experiences on buses, and with drivers, but there are too many having bad experiences and having their independence limited which is putting them off using their local bus service.”
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 our helpline on 0303 123 9999.