Guide Dogs is celebrating a major landmark moment in improving the accessibility of local travel for people with sight loss through its Talking Buses campaign.
Today the Department for Transport has introduced measures that will see buses fitted with audio-visual announcements.
For many people with sight loss, bus travel is difficult or near impossible due to a lack of audio next stop announcements.
Guide Dogs led the campaign for next-stop final-destination audio-visual (AV) announcements through its long running Talking Buses campaign. The campaign, which launched in 2009, has harnessed the support of tens of thousands of campaigners to help enlist MPs and Peers to change government policy.
The charity strongly welcomes the new requirements, which will see a large proportion of buses fitted with AV within just two years, and most other buses within just over three years.
Buses are still by far the most used form of public transport. In year ending March 2022, there were 2.8 billion journeys in England by bus (4.1 billion in year ending March 2020) compared to 990 million journeys on the railways in the same period.
It has long been a legal requirement for trains and light rail, including trams, to provide next stop and final destination AV announcements, and this has also been the case on all buses in London since 2009. However, up until now there has been no legal requirement for buses elsewhere to have AV.
For so many people, buses are key to opening opportunities to get out independently; to go out to work, get to appointments, and to see friends. But for many people with sight loss, bus travel is difficult or near impossible because of lack of audio next stop announcements.
At Guide Dogs, we are delighted that the Government has taken this significant step in making bus travel more accessible to people with a visual impairment. Our research shows that over half of people with sight loss have missed their stop due to a lack of AV, and many people avoid bus travel altogether because buses remain inaccessible.
Today’s announcement, and the financial support behind it, will open up opportunities for people with sight loss to live independently.
Guide Dogs’ Chief Executive, Tom Wright CBE
Guide Dogs campaigned to get the Bus Services Act 2017 amended during its passage in parliament to include requirements for AV next stop and final-destination announcements. The Act gave the Secretary of State for the Transport to create a requirement for operators to provide accessible information.
The charity’s research revealed the difficulties people with sight loss face when trying to get buses without AV announcements.
Guide dog owner Riley Yeomans from Ipswich said: “Because you rely on people telling you where your stop is or you try and figure out where you are on your route, it’s so easy to get lost. I have gotten off too early and too late for my stop and it’s a nightmare to try and work out where you are.”
Over three quarters of people with a vision impairment said they would take the bus more frequently if there were AV announcements.
Guide dog owner Carron Jones from Caithness said: “Having audio announcements on all buses would be amazing and would improve things no end – I would feel independent. I would know exactly where I was and when my next stop would be. I could go to different places without thinking or worrying, because I know the audio announcements would help me get there, my world could open up.”
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