‘Stop For Me, Speak To Me’: RNIB Set Role Reversal Challenge

Bus drivers to swap places with blind and partially sighted passengers

A group of bus drivers and a local MP are set to face an unusual challenge this Friday, when they swap places with blind and partially sighted people from Greater Manchester. This is in support of a new campaign from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Employees from Stagecoach Manchester will be joined by the MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, Paul Goggins, and the company’s managing director, Christopher Bowles. They will participate in a series of simulation exercises, which will highlight the barriers faced by people with sight loss travelling on buses in the region.

The event is part of the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB) recently launched bus campaign which is calling on operators to remember one simple principle: ‘Stop for me, Speak to me’.

Bus drivers and trainers from the region, along with local blind and partially sighted people, will attend the event at Stagecoach Manchester’s Sharston Depot, situated on Leestone Road, Wythenshawe. Drivers will join RNIB volunteers on a special journey down the busy Oxford Road corridor, to experience first-hand the potential difficulties faced by people with sight loss.

Stagecoach Manchester drivers will take part in tasks including boarding a bus and paying for a ticket, while blindfolded. RNIB volunteers will also have the opportunity to explore both a single and double deck bus, in a way that would not be possible during ordinary service.

The exercise will provide the team of drivers with first-hand experience of the problems their blind and partially sighted customers face, which will be used to develop and further improve the company’s existing training programme. It is also hoped the event will generate new ideas for providing a better, more accessible service for local residents with sight loss.

Christopher Bowles commented: “We have always been conscious that our blind and partially sighted customers face a whole range of obstacles when travelling on buses and we are always looking for ways to improve their experience when travelling on Stagecoach Manchester services.

“Our current training programme already introduces drivers to the barriers faced by customers with sight problems through the use of simulation glasses. However, we believe by taking this activity out of the classroom environment and onto the street will give our team members vital practical understanding of the challenges encountered by the volunteers from RNIB, as well as allowing them to have open and honest discussions with the group following the exercise.

“We hope that the insight gained will allow us to further improve our training systems and also the level of customer service provided for our passengers with sight loss.”

A recent RNIB survey of blind and partially sighted people revealed a number of barriers*:

  • 9 in 10 people with sight loss cannot see an approaching bus in time to hail it;
  • 8 in 10 people with sight loss say they miss the bus they want;
  • 6 in 10 people said buses which stopped away from the official bus stop cause them to often miss their bus or step off the bus into hazards such as bins and lamp posts;
  • Over half of respondents said they had difficulty obtaining spoken information from the driver such as the bus number and destination.

Lindsay Armstrong, RNIB regional campaigns officer for the North West, 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, blind and partially sighted people face a range of difficulties in making journeys, which others often take for granted. We want operators to remember one simple principle: Stop for me, Speak to me.

“We are excited to be working with Stagecoach Manchester to build drivers’ awareness of the difficulties faced by blind and partially sighted passengers, which will help make their journeys easier and therefore more enjoyable in the long term.”

S.V., 26 June 2013.

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