16 Apr 2012

Blind bus users left in ‘dangerous situations’

Blind and partially-sighted people are being left stranded and vulnerable by bus services in Britain, according to Guide Dogs. Annabel Williams, from the charity, writes for No Go Britain.

Blind bus users left in 'dangerous situations'

Guide Dogs asked 300 people about their experiences on buses and nearly nine out of 10 (87 per cent) of visually-impaired respondents, said they had missed their stop because they didn’t know where they were. A further 87 per cent said they had missed their stop despite asking the driver to tell them it was coming up, and 29 per cent said a driver had refused to alert them to their stop.

Guide dog owner Andy Parkinson, from Nantwich, is a nurse who spends three hours a day commuting with his guide dog, Farley.

Andy, 38, said: “Drivers can often be patronising and impatient, they regularly forget to let me know when we’ve reached my stop. There have been times I have ended up back at the depot or in unknown parts of town, not knowing where I was or how to get home.

“It just makes me feel so angry, I have complained many times but nothing is ever done. I work with people who have learning disabilities, I spend my days trying to empower them and teach them that they can lead normal lives but how can I do that when I struggle myself?”

The bus driver pointed me in the ‘right direction’ despite the fact I couldn’t see his hands. Christine Moore

Christine Moore, from Southport, Merseyside, is a qualified social worker and mother-of-two. Christine is also studying for a Masters degree, so she is always on the move with her guide dog, Pippa.

Christine, 53, said: “When I am travelling I try my best to avoid the bus, it’s too unpredictable. The way I am treated differs from one day to the next.

“On one occasion I found myself in an unknown part of town with a busy road to cross and just some very vague directions from the bus driver who pointed me in the ‘right direction’ despite the fact I couldn’t see his hands.”

Dangerous situation
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Nick Sherwood told us: My son is in his early 20s and is registered blind carrying a white cane. On two occasions the rural bus taking him home overshot his requested stop and without informing him discharged him in the dark onto a busy road at a place that he was not expecting and that had no lighting, no pavement and no bus stop! Needless to say this was a very dangerous situation for him.

Peter Millgate makes his living a piano tuner, visiting people in their homes. Having been completely blind since the age of 11 due to retinoblastoma (tumours on the retina), Peter relies heavily on his guide dog, Virgo, to commute.

The 45-year-old said: “Most memorable was a day that I was travelling from Birmingham International to the end of my street and asked the driver to let me know when I was at the correct stop. Instead of listening to me he kept banging on the screen telling me to scan my pass.

“I missed my stop and found myself in an unknown area surrounded by busy traffic with a noisy helicopter above me which restricted my hearing. I felt like I was on an island and had no idea how to get home, it was terrifying.”

Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign is lobbying for compulsory audio-visual announcements on board buses to help everyone, not just blind and partially sighted people. The charity wants all buses to have information telling passengers the next stop and the final destination, much like trains. You can help the charity’s campaign by writing to your MP.