Getting off at the right bus stop is like “playing a game of chance”, says guide dog owner Linda, about her experiences navigating the bus network without sight.
Last week at the Labour Party conference I got the chance to experience for myself why people with sight loss need audio-visual announcements (AV) on buses, through playing a memory game.
AV is essential for people with sight loss to live independently, yet only one fifth of the UK’s buses have AV. Without AV bus passengers with sight loss have to ask the driver to remember to tell them when they have reached their stop. Lothian Buses in Edinburgh have made some advancements in recent years, with 74 vehicles now using AV announcements. I believe more needs to be done though, and Guide Dogs is calling for the Government to require all new buses be fitted with AV.
Finding out more about Guide Dogs’ work, I was told that 7 in 10 bus passengers with sight loss have been forgotten by a bus driver. For a sighted person, missing a stop is an annoyance, but for someone with sight loss, it is potentially very dangerous.
AV is such a simple and cheap solution and would ensure access for all to public transport that is so vital to people’s everyday lives.
James White, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs commented:
“Guide dogs do fantastic work getting people out and about safely, and the lack of AV acts as a real barrier to their independence. That’s why we’re urging politicians like Ian Murray to call for the mandatory installation of AV on buses, something that is cheap to do.”
AV doesn’t just help people with sight loss – tourists, older people and infrequent bus users all find AV useful. Guide Dogs released their Destination Unknown report this September showing that nearly half of survey respondents said they would use the bus more frequently if it had AV.
You can find out more about the campaign here.