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Stagecoach North bus drivers get a chance to find out what it's like to be a passenger with sight loss

Stagecoach North Scotland employees will take part in a training session today as part of the bus operator’s pledge to make its services more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

The company which operates throughout Aberdeenshire, Buchan, Moray and the Highlands will hold a ‘swap-with-me’ event which will give its drivers a better idea of what everyday travel is like for passengers with sight loss.

Stagecoach North Scotland has signed a charter from sight loss charity RNIB that commits to meeting the needs of passengers with a visual impairment.

This includes approaching bus stops more slowly so people have time to make out the number and route, not pulling away from stops before passengers with sight loss have found a seat, and letting them know when they arrive at their destination.

At today's event at Aberdeen Bus Station, drivers will don special 'sim specs' that simulate different eye conditions and experience first-hand the barriers that blind and partially sighted passengers face when travelling, while people with sight loss will get a chance to sit up front in the cab and engage with those boarding the bus from the driver’s perspective

Stagecoach North Scotland has 335 buses and 684 drivers.

David Liston, managing director for Stagecoach North Scotland, said: "We are pleased to continue our long-standing relationship with RNIB, ensuring that our buses are accessible for everyone in the community, including those who are blind and partially sighted.

"It is easy to take public transport for granted, however, when someone loses their sight, things like stopping a bus, buying a ticket, finding a seat, and getting off at the right stop can seem like an impossible task.

"Our employees have an important role to play by recognising these challenges and providing assistance to make bus travel an easy choice for everyone. Events such as 'Swap with me' allow our drivers to experience, first-hand, the difficulties encountered by blind and partially sighted members of the community when using public transport."

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, said: "It's great that Stagecoach North Scotland has embraced our campaign so fully. Bus travel can be a lifeline for blind and partially sighted people, who rely on buses more than most because they are unable to drive, and taxis are too expensive for everyday journeys.

"We think if drivers are more aware of the problems people with sight loss face, they will take that extra bit of time to ensure they can make their journey confidently."

Pamela Munro, engagement officer for Guide Dogs Scotland, said: "Guide Dogs are really pleased to work with RNIB Scotland and Stagecoach North at this event. The opportunity for drivers to get a clearer insight into how they can support people with sight loss and hearing loss is invaluable.  Drivers are given the opportunity to speak to people who have sight loss and discuss issues that they may have used the bus. This event allows the drivers to understand and develop skills on how they can provide appropriate assistance to people with sight loss using their buses."

There are around 170,000 people in Scotland with significant sight loss, a number likely to increase in the next two decades due to our ageing population.