Brighton & Hove and Metrobus is backing the Department of Transport’s (DfT) campaign, ‘it’s everyone’s journey’, which aims to improve disabled people’s experience of using public transport.
Transport Accessibility Minister Nus Ghani visited Brighton & Hove this week (Monday) and experienced first-hand the accessibility features on the company’s buses, particularly the audio-visual information for passengers.
The Minister boarded one of Brighton & Hove’s 30 new extended-range electric buses, which travel in zero-emissions mode through the city centre on route 5.
Brighton & Hove and Metrobus’ Managing Director Martin Harris said: “Our entire fleet (440 buses) is made up of ‘talking buses’, where passengers can see and hear next stop and other announcements, such as diversions. We introduced them in 2016 after one of our visually impaired passengers told us she had alighted at the wrong stop several times and it was making her anxious.
“We’re right behind the DfT’s campaign and we welcome it wholeheartedly. Everybody deserves to feel relaxed and confident while they travel and the best way to make buses more accessible is to keep listening to the experts: our passengers and our communities.”
He said the company worked with disabled passengers and community groups on bus design, ticketing and driver training. It also ran a travel buddy scheme with Brighton & Hove’s Grace Eyre Foundation, building up the confidence of people with learning disabilities on public transport.
Hangleton resident Graham Oulton is registered blind and used to worry about catching the bus by himself in Brighton.
Graham has volunteered with Guide Dogs UK since 2014 and helped Brighton & Hove Buses fulfil its promise of making 100% of its fleet becoming talking buses.
Graham said: “It’s tremendous getting on board a bus and hearing your stops. It’s amazing for me because it’s freedom. I can go anywhere.”
He said the company’s Helping Hand card, which tells a driver when a passenger may need extra help without them having to say anything, had also made him more relaxed and confident about catching the bus, assisted by his guide dog Bassey.
Brighton & Hove Guide Dogs branch helped design the Helping Hand card. The company’s Accessibility and Communities Manager Victoria Garcia said disabled people accounted for one in five of the UK population but accessible buses were important for everybody.
Victoria said: “We’re all going to have an accessibility requirement at some point in our lives, whether that’s living well with dementia, becoming pregnant, carrying heavy shopping or having a short-term injury.
“Audio-visual technology is also great for people travelling at night or taking a route for the first time and really helpful for tourists and students.”
‘It’s Everyone’s Journey’ asks people to pitch in and make journeys better for disabled people; passengers and transport companies alike. That could mean moving out of a wheelchair space or a priority seat when needed, being patient when passengers board or asking if people need help before acting.