Bus operator promotes a series of principles to deliver a better service
• Joint working to help remove barriers from independent travel
• Additional staff training, new technology and local events part of plans for improved accessibility
Stagecoach’s UK Bus division today (Wednesday 29 July) confirmed its commitment to accessible transport as it announced a new charter, produced with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to deliver a better service to customers with sight loss.
In the charter, which was launched at an event in Perth, Stagecoach has made a series of pledges to help improve the accessibility of its local bus services as well as raising awareness among employees of the need to understand the practical issues faced by blind and partially sighted customers.
As part of the published charter, Britain’s biggest bus operator is implementing a series of service principles. These include:
- Drivers to stop for any waiting passengers at a designated stop, and to assist blind and partially sighted customers by telling them service and destination information, and assisting them if required with payment and finding a seat
- Where there is no audio announcement system, drivers will advise blind and partially sighted customers when their destination is reached and assist them in exiting the vehicle if required.
- The company will conduct a review of timetable and bus stop information, in conjunction with blind and partially sighted people, and other stakeholders, to ensure it is as accessible as possible.
- New interactive sight loss awareness training to be included in driver training, with blind and partially sighted people, and related organisations, to be involved in the design of this training.
- Promotion of priority seating and areas for disabled people through awareness campaigns and materials on buses.
- Seeking to improve the way sound can be heard through the driver protection screen and, where possible, the screen will be removed.
Stagecoach has a long-standing relationship with RNIB and the two organisations have worked closely in developing the charter which aims to bring more independence, choice and control to the lives of people with sight loss.
Stagecoach UK Bus Managing Director Robert Montgomery said: “We want our buses to be accessible to everyone, including people who are blind and partially sighted.
"It is easy for us all to take public transport for granted. But when someone loses their sight, things like stopping a bus, buying a ticket, finding a seat and getting off at the right stop immediately become a huge challenge. Our employees have an important role to play in providing assistance.
"Across the country, our drivers and other staff have taken part in 'Swap with me' events as part of our drive to understand the practical issues faced by blind and partially sighted people.
"We are committed to making bus travel an easier choice and we're delighted to sign up to RNIB's Bus Charter."
RNIB launched a ‘We’re on Board’ charter in 2014 as part of the charity’s ‘Stop for me, Speak to me’ campaign.
Fazilet Hadi, Managing Director for RNIB Engagement, said: "Bus travel is a life-line to blind and partially sighted people across the UK, who rely on buses to take them to work, the shops or just to get out and about with friends. We are delighted that Stagecoach has signed up to our Charter demonstrating their willingness to make improvements for their blind and partially sighted passengers. They are clearly doing a lot already but now that we are working together and with their commitment to our charter, we are sure things can only go from strength to strength."
Stagecoach already has in place a number of measures to assist customers who are blind or partially-sighted. The interiors of the company’s buses have been designed in conjunction with disability groups. They feature handrails as well as different textured walkways and seating areas, which are specifically designed to assist passengers with visual impairment.
The company is on schedule to ensure its 8,300-vehicle fleet meets Government targets for compliance with disability legislation in advance of the deadline and Stagecoach maintains ongoing links with disability groups to ensure its staff training continues to take account of the needs of all passengers.
The Stagecoach Group corporate website, www.stagecoach.com, was developed in line with web accessibility guidelines and the company’s consumer-facing websites are also designed to maximise ease of use by customers with visual impairment. Since 2005, Stagecoach has a partnership with The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and charity Canine Partners, that ensures guide dog and puppy trainers can travel free on local bus services in the UK.
The company’s regional bus companies also have a dedicated disability help desk to assist customers with their travel and answer their queries.