Lothian Buses has secured an award for a unique initiative aimed at fostering a better understanding of the travel experiences of blind and partially sighted passengers.
The ‘Swap With Me’ sessions, launched in collaboration with RNIB Scotland, a national sight loss charity, provide a hands-on training experience for Lothian Bus drivers. The monthly sessions, initiated in November 2022, offer drivers an opportunity to understand the challenges faced by visually impaired passengers, by hailing a bus, buying a ticket and boarding while wearing sim-specs that mimic various sight conditions.
The sessions enable conversations about the driver’s role in ensuring an inclusive journey. Individuals with sight loss get an opportunity to articulate their experiences and comprehend the driver’s perspective by sitting in the cab.
Community member Sylvia Paton highlights the significance of the training sessions. “Driver’s actions can make a huge difference to the accessibility of bus travel for all passengers,” she says. “This could include telling blind and visually impaired people the number and destination, and allowing passengers with sight loss time to find a seat before pulling away. It is also helpful if drivers let them know when they arrive at their destination. Helping the trainee drivers to understand our experiences has really helped to change perceptions and attitudes towards blind and partially sighted passengers.”
The Excellence in Transport Accessibility Award, won by Lothian Buses for the second consecutive year, underscores an ongoing commitment to improving accessibility for disabled people. The award acknowledges projects and initiatives demonstrating innovation and collaborative effort between operators and organisations, like the ‘Swap With Me’ sessions.
Gaynor Marshall, Communications Director for Lothian, says: “We are delighted to be recognised with the Excellence in Transport Accessibility Award for the second year running. Partnerships with the RNIB Scotland and other such organisations allow us to better understand the needs and experiences of disabled people travelling on our services.”
She adds that Lothian’s mission to offer safe, reliable and accessible travel to all its customers is embodied in such awards. Gaynor attributes this success to the concerted efforts of teams across the company in ensuring accessible services for everyone.
James Adams, Director of RNIB Scotland, expresses his appreciation of Lothian Buses’ efforts to boost awareness among their drivers about the needs of visually impaired passengers: “We applaud [its] efforts and are grateful for the opportunity to explain the importance of accessibility.
“The award is well-deserved recognition of their dedication to making bus travel as accessible as possible for all and we look forward to the future of this partnership.”