First partners with Guide Dogs

ImageFirstBus claims it will become the first company in the bus industry to provide its drivers with specific training designed to help people who are blind or partially sighted to confidently use the bus. The operator will begin this training for each of its 17,000 UK drivers from September. To provide this tuition, it has been working closely with Guide Dogs, which provides the My Guide sighted guiding scheme. First drivers will be encouraged to either verbally guide or physically assist customers that may have sight problems to their seats and urged to alert these customers when their stop is approaching. During this training, drivers will spend some time blindfolded so they can play the role of a blind passenger and therefore better understand the needs and concerns of such customers.

Customer Service and Communications Director for FirstBus, Barbara Bedford, said, ‘We are setting new standards of customer service across our operations in the UK. By improving our customer proposition we will encourage more people to travel by bus and to travel by bus more often. As part of our commitment to improve customer service we will be working with a number of disability groups to understand how the company can provide better services. We’ve already taken steps to make life a little easier for customers with disabilities. All our new buses have been designed with extra space at the front of the bus and fitted with more grab rails, which should provide customers who are blind or partially sighted with a little bit more support and reassurance.’

Pic: Training & Development Manager for First UK Bus, Keith Sheard, helps blind customer, Stewart Heppleston.

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Guide Dogs encourages views

Guide Dogs is encouraging people to make their opinions heard by posting a response to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into public transport accessibility. Views gathered from this report will ultimately be used to decide whether buses in the UK should be made accessible for passengers with sight loss and fitted with audio visual announcement systems, as pushed for by the charity’s Talking Buses campaign. The inquiry is split into three topics: physical accessibility, travel information and staff assistance.

Visit http://bit.ly/179epPD to submit opinions online.