CAROLINE ANSELL MP: More talking buses needed for blind

Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001
Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001

I have recently heard about the experiences of a guide dog owner who had missed their stop and been left stranded on a bus because they were unable to know where on the route they were.

Sadly, this is not an isolated experience: seven in 10 passengers with sight loss have been forgotten about on a bus.

Talking buses, which are buses that provide “next stop” and “final destination” announcements, are essential for people with sight loss to live independently.

Worryingly, only one fifth of the UK’s buses are talking, 97 per cent of which are in London.

For a sighted person, missing a stop is an annoyance, but for someone with sight loss, it is potentially dangerous.

I was dismayed to learn when speaking with the charity Guide Dogs how often blind people miss their stop because they do not know where they are.

As a result of Guide Dogs’ campaign, the Government has acted to include this proposal into the Bus Services Bill.

The Bill is the biggest reform of buses since the 1980s so it is a unique opportunity to make sure that blind people can use buses safely too.

I’m delighted that the Government has acted to include talking buses in the bill and support the Government’s proposal to make buses accessible for everyone.

I have taken a particular interest in this campaign following my experience, back in June, with Eastbourne Blind Society. I took to the streets of Eastbourne using glasses to simulate the experiences of visually impaired people.

This was hugely effective and really made me aware of the challenges facing visually impaired people in simple everyday activities like crossing the road or taking the bus that sighted people take for granted.

I am pleased to be supporting the Guide Dogs campaign in supporting the rights of visually impaired people and am committed to making talking buses the norm in Eastbourne and across the UK.

I have written to local bus operators to ask how they ensure their services are fully inclusive, and how they support those with sight loss.

The Bus Services Bill comes before Parliament this side of Christmas, and I’d be delighted to hear from any bus users about their experience.