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Steering The Way To Inclusive Travel

One of Scotland’s leading public transportation providers has won an award at this year's Scottish Transport Awards for an initiative that gives drivers insight into the experiences of blind and partially sighted passengers.

A driver in tunnel vision sim specs prepares to board bus.

Drivers with Lothian Buses have been taking part in hands-on training events, named ‘Swap With Me’ sessions, alongside community members from national sight loss charity, RNIB Scotland.

The sessions, which have taken place monthly since November 2022, give trainee drivers an opportunity to attempt to hail a bus, buy a ticket and board while wearing sim-specs; special glasses that simulate different sight conditions.

The drivers also engage in meaningful discussions about their role in ensuring an inclusive journey, while individuals with sight loss have had the chance to describe their experiences and gain a deeper understanding of the driver's perspective by sitting in the cab.

Driver’s actions can make a huge difference to the accessibility of bus travel for all passengers

Sylvia Paton

Community member, Sylvia Paton says “This could include telling blind and visually impaired people the number and destination, and allowing passengers with sight loss time to find a seat before pulling away. It is also helpful if drivers let them know when they arrive at their destination. Helping the trainee drivers to understand our experiences has really helped to change perceptions and attitudes towards blind and partially sighted passengers.”

The Excellence in Transport Accessibility Award recognises Lothian’s commitment to providing improved access to travel for disabled people. The award covers projects and initiatives that highlight innovation and collaboration between operators and organisations, such as Lothian and RNIB Scotland’s ‘Swap With Me’ sessions.

Gaynor Marshall, Communications Director for Lothian, said: “We are delighted to be recognised with the Excellence in Transport Accessibility Award for the second year running.

“Partnerships with the RNIB Scotland and other such organisations allow us to better understand the needs and experiences of disabled people travelling on our services.

“Lothian is committed to providing safe, reliable and accessible travel for all of our customers and awards like this are a testament to the amazing effort of teams across our business in getting it right for everyone.”

James Adams, Director of RNIB Scotland, said:

"By raising awareness among their drivers and encouraging them to take that extra bit of time, Lothian Buses is making a significant difference in the lives of blind and partially sighted passengers.

“We applaud their efforts and are grateful for the opportunity to explain the importance of accessibility. The award is well-deserved recognition of their dedication to making bus travel as accessible as possible for all and we look forward to the future of this partnership."

There are around 183,000 people in Scotland living with significant sight loss.

Lothian Buses has over 700 buses servicing over 67 routes throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.