Too many people heading for a destination unknown
Guide Dogs UK supports Jim Shannon MP’s Bill calling for AV technology on buses, giving back independence to the blind.
Because I am totally blind using the bus can be like a game of chance, I have to depend on other people to tell me where I am and when to get off. This leaves me feeling very nervous because I spend most of the time worrying if they have remembered me. You would not believe some of the places I have ended up.” Linda, guide dog owner.
For blind or partially sighted bus passengers like Linda, being left sometimes miles away from where you should be is more than an inconvenience, it’s highly distressing and potentially dangerous. This is why Guide Dogs (and many other organisations) are so passionate in their calls for on board audio visual “next stop” and “final destination” technology (AV).
Guide Dogs was joined in this call yesterday by Jim Shannon MP, whose 10 Minute Rule Bill called for AV technology to be made available on all new buses. In presenting the Buses (Audio Announcements) Bill, Mr Shannon outlined the need for talking buses, explaining that they are absolutely vital for people with sight loss.
Earlier this year Guide Dogs ran its annual bus passenger survey which attracted over 2,000 responses, 818 of which were from people with sight loss. The results were published as a report, Destination Unknown, which makes difficult reading. It showed that 7 out of 10 bus passengers with sight loss have been forgotten by a bus driver who was asked to call out their stop. In fact, nearly two thirds (65%) have missed their stop at least once over the last six months.
However, it is not just people with sight loss who are demanding talking buses, and Jim Shannon used his speech yesterday to highlight the wider economic benefits of audio visual announcements to the population as a whole, through making public transport easier and more accessible to everybody and increasing bus usage. He said that talking buses “would benefit every single bus passenger in the UK”. This is backed up by Guide Dogs’ report which found that 97% of survey respondents felt that AV would be useful. It this is also reflected in the wide range of support the campaign for talking buses has gathered over the years, with backing from not just the sight loss community but also other disability charities, bus user representatives, and several bus companies.
Jim Shannon was right in his article for PoliticsHome.com yesterday when he pointed out that an investment in talking buses would be a shrewd move for the Chancellor. There are obvious benefits for tourists or those unfamiliar with an area but even commuters can find this technology helpful. Reading Buses has previously reported increases in passenger numbers after AV was installed and Trent Barton say that 86% of their passengers find the technology useful on board their buses. Nottingham City Transport aim to fit AV on their whole fleet over the next few years.
The social benefits of this technology should not be ignored. The fact is that losing your sight is a difficult journey for a person and any steps that could increase confidence and independence should be encouraged.
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