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South Wales bus drivers swap places with blind and partially sighted passengers

Bus passengers 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.

Eleven blind and partially sighted campaigners visited the Stagecoach bus depot in Blackwood on Thursday 10 October for a “Swap With Me” event organised by RNIB Cymru.

As part of the event, drivers were given glasses specially 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 improved for blind and partially sighted people across Wales.

Lee Alder, 50, who has Lebers Congenital Amaurosis and has been blind since birth, was one of the passengers who joined the Swap With Me 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.  Stagecoach has signed up to RNIB’s Bus Charter, which confirmed our commitment to accessible transport”.

RNIB Cymru Campaigns Officer Kirsty James said: “Many blind and partially sighted people rely on their local bus services to visit friends and family, the shops, and to make trips to the hospital for crucial check-ups. One bad experience can discourage people from taking the bus again, but a service that recognises the diverse needs of all its passengers can help people living with sight loss to maintain their independence.

“Thank you to Stagecoach for hosting us at the Blackwood depot and listening to the concerns of our campaigners. Stagecoach has made a great step towards making bus travel more accessible for people with sight loss.”

The Swap With Me event is part of RNIB Cymru’s ongoing transport campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the barriers that blind and partially sighted people often face when trying to get out and about.

To find out more about RNIB Cymru’s bus campaign visit: https://www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning-current-campaigns/bus-campaign
or contact Kirsty James: [email protected]