Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert is to take a blindfolded bus ride across the city on Friday, April 25 to push the case for “talking buses”.
Julian will be led by a guide dog for the 10 minute journey from the railway station into the city centre and then guided round the bus station to try to identify bus stops.
The trip has been organised by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association to highlight its campaign for audio visual (AV) technology to be fitted to all buses and every driver to be given visual awareness training.
Julian has called for a change in the legislation so that there is a legal requirement for buses, as there is for trains, to announce stops.
“Taking a bus journey for sighted people is a relatively easy thing to do,” said Julian. “But for those with partial sight and blind people it can throw up all sorts of challenges.
“Firstly, they have to find the right stop to catch the bus that will take them where they want to go; then they have to rely on the driver or another passenger telling them when they have reached their destination. Fitting AV technology onto every bus would give them back their independence and freedom and make the whole journey easier, less fraught and more enjoyable.”
Research shows than nine out of 10 blind passengers have got off a bus at the wrong stop because of the lack of AV. The result is that people are put off travelling and miss social occasions, medical appointments and interviews.
Installing AV in a double decker bus costs £2,550 and it would cost the government £5.75 million a year to fit every new bus with AV.
At present, less than 20 per cent of UK buses have AV and most of those are in London, yet statistics show that it increases the numbers of bus passengers. It helps not only blind and partially sighted people but the elderly, tourists and the occasional bus user.
Recently, Julian took a blindfolded walk through Cambridge city centre with a guide dog to experience the problems blind and partially sighted people face on a routine visit.
He was impressed by the confidence he felt with the guide dog by his side but realised how much people with impaired vision rely on their other senses.
“I’m looking forward to finding out the problems blind and partially sighted people face travelling on the buses,” said Julian, “but I must admit I am a little apprehensive. I have complete faith in the guide dog though.”