‘Don’t let bus services pass us by’, campaigners with sight loss say

A group of blind and partially sighted young people will swap places with bus drivers in Edinburgh this afternoon to demonstrate the barriers they face when travelling on buses.

The event will mark the launch of a UK-wide campaign fortnight of action to make bus services more accessible to people with sight loss by the charity RNIB.

The young people, members of the charity’s ‘Haggeye’ youth forum, are meeting with drivers at Lothian Buses’ Annandale Street depot in Edinburgh so each can get a better appreciation of the difficulties faced.

A 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 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.

Drivers, who will wear specially darkened glasses to mimic sight loss conditions, will try tasks such as trying to board a bus and paying for a ticket, experiencing first-hand the barriers their blind and partially sighted customers face when travelling.

Katrina Thomson (21) from Hawick said: “Living in the Borders and having a visual impairment, I rely on buses to get around. I find it easier to get a bus from one of the main stops as it is hard to see them coming otherwise and to flag them down. Reading timetables at the bus stop is also a problem as they are usually in tiny writing. So I tend to rely on my phone and the internet.”

Older users experience the same problems. Derek Macdonald (75) from Morningside in Edinburgh has the eye condition macula degeneration. “I rely on buses all the time to get around but can’t see the number until the bus arrives at the stop,” he said.

“However, Lothian drivers do always call out the number to me when they see I have a white symbol cane. Members of the public are very helpful but usually busy, and without the drivers telling me the bus number I would be quite lost."

Natalie Doig, campaigns officer, said: "Being able to travel easily is key to taking part in society. For people with sight loss, their local bus service can be a lifeline for getting to work, to the shops and for keeping up with family and friends. If you are unable to drive or cycle, and can’t afford taxis, the bus is the only way of getting around.”

“We are delighted to be launching our Stop for Me Speak to Me bus campaign fortnight of action in Scotland with the young people from Haggeye and Lothian Buses.”

Ian Craig, chief executive officer of Transport for Edinburgh, said: “We are delighted to be able to play our part in breaking down the barriers that prevent people from travelling, and that's why we're right behind this campaign.

“We work hard at Lothian Buses to make our buses as accessible as possible, for all passengers. Our newest buses all have next stop information announcements on screen and in audio.”

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.