Bus drivers swap places with blind and partially sighted passengers
Last week on East of the M60, a number of employees from Stagecoach Manchester, its managing director Christopher Bowles and the MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, Paul Goggins, were about to participate in a series of simulation exercises for the RNIB. The purpose of which was to highlight the barriers faced by people with sight loss travelling on our region’s buses.
On Friday 28 June, they attended the event at Stagecoach Manchester’s Sharston depot. Drivers joined 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. They took part in tasks including boarding a bus and paying for a ticket – whilst blindfolded. RNIB volunteers will also had the opportunity to explore both a single and double deck bus, in a way that would not be possible during ordinary service.
This exercise provided the team of drivers with first-hand experience of the problems their blind and partially sighted customers face, which will now be used to develop and further improve the company’s existing training programme.
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, but this exercise has given us the opportunity to actually experience these difficulties first hand.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the experience of customers with sight loss when travelling on Stagecoach Manchester services and I am certain the insight we have gained, along with the open and honest discussions we had with the volunteers following the exercise, will generate some practical new ideas.”
Paul Goggins MP, said: “My father was diagnosed with macular degeneration in his early 70’s, which resulted in a loss of sight in his central field of vision. His experience has helped me to understand how important driver interaction is for blind and partially sighted people travelling on buses in the region.
“There is no substitute for learning from direct experience and I’m sure the Stagecoach Manchester staff who participated in this exercise will have learned valuable lessons, which they will now be able to share with colleagues.
“I believe that taking this experience and applying it to the company’s training procedures is an excellent investment for the future and I congratulate RNIB and Stagecoach Manchester for working together on this important initiative.”
S.V., 04 July 2013.