The only Accessibility Officer at any bus company in the country – who works for Brighton & Hove Buses – has just been awarded a national Everywoman award for services to the customer.
Victoria Garcia was honoured at a ceremony at the Marriot Hotel in Grosvenor Square in London at the Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards – set up to recognise inspirational female role models.
Victoria, who has worked for Brighton & Hove Buses for eight years said: “I have the best job in the world with the best bosses and I’m just doing what I love. So to then receive such a prestigious award for doing something I love is nothing short of striking gold.
“Really this is our MD Martin Harris’ accolade. The great work I’ve had the privilege of doing has been down to his desire to make bus travel easy and convenient for everyone. He’s given me the long rope to go out there and really engage with communities so we can develop the sort of bus service that our customers want and ensure our buses are accessible for all.”
Brighton & Hove Buses Managing Director Martin Harris said: “We’re not just here to provide a very good bus service but to add value to the community – of which we’re an essential part – by supporting its economic, environmental and social objectives.
“Victoria’s work has influenced and shaped not just our understanding of these communities but our role and responsibilities within it. Victoria absolutely deserves this award. She’s such a credit to the company and has earned this through sheer hard work.”
Victoria, mother of three, has overseen a plethora of accessibility initiatives that have helped to make Brighton & Hove Buses a leading transport company.
The bus company pioneered the ground-breaking and award-winning Helping Hand scheme (that has caught the eye of key national figures for potential national roll-out), which she co-created with community groups as a non-branded, discreet card that advises drivers of any extra assistance a passenger might need.
Brighton & Hove Buses is one of only a couple of bus companies in the country to offer a taxi guarantee scheme for wheelchair users unable for any reason to board a bus.
The company offers individuals a travel buddy scheme and depot tours and groups ‘drama on the bus’ (in partnership with Grace Eyre), role-playing activity to help adults with learning disabilities gain confidence on the bus.
All drivers are trained in empathy skills: to treat passengers the same as they would their own family.
In the first initiative of its kind in the UK, Brighton & Hove Buses has trained employees to train others in My Guide techniques that give them a practical understanding of accessibility issues such as experiencing boarding a bus on a wheelchair or wearing RNIB glasses. And a third of all employees have taken up the opportunity offered to become a ‘Dementia Friend’.
Victoria has even worked directly with bus manufacturers to replace a fixed pole with a pull-down version for the wheelchair area of all buses after users said it obstructed their access.
She’s been instrumental in leading the company to become the first bus operator to trial improved hearing ‘loops’ for hearing aid users on board buses.
Also, the company didn’t hesitate to change its policy by removing electric wheelchair ramps to return to manual ones after discovering the mechanical ones were prone to breaking down.
One hundred per cent of all Brighton & Hove Buses have audio-visual announcements and are low-floor wheelchair-accessible.
All new buses have dementia-safe floor colours and are fitted with white screen destination boards.