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Accessibility of Public Transport by Blind and Partially Sighted People

John Gill

A typical journey is likely to involve:

Options for planning the journey have increased significantly with the introduction of new technology such as web-based journey planners.  However many of these systems are not easy to use by a blind person with limited experience of using the internet.  Hopefully in the next few years effort will be devoted to making these systems truly user friendly for all potential travellers.

At stations many simple adaptations can make life easier for all travellers.  Examples include clear high-contrast signage as well as visual markings on the edge of steps (painting a white line along the edge is of limited value since it soon wears away).  Too often transport operators get fixated on high tech solutions and forget to ensure that low tech adaptations are properly implemented at all stations.  Although satellite navigation systems work well outdoors, there is still no similar system for indoor navigation which is low cost and easy to use.

The technology to implement on-board visual and auditory announcements of the next stop is now readily available but is not yet universal in the UK.

More sophisticated systems with a choice of visual or speech output on smart phones exist but implementation has been fragmentary.  Any system should be:

The technology can deliver a large range of information services, but it is important to decide on which services to offer based on a systematic analysis of user needs.  For instance some travellers, including those with balance problems, might find it helpful to be able to request a stop by pressing a button on their phone handset rather than having to get out of their seat to reach a button fixed to a pole or the wall of the bus.

Ideally there should be a single national standard for such services which would provide consistency to users and reduce costs for the service providers.  Also it would require the availability of affordable smart phones which are easy to use by blind and partially sighted people.

All this is unlikely to happen unless there is some leadership from the government.


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