Raising Awareness of Vision Impaired Passengers at Becontree Bus Garage

Recently, myself and Masuma visited Becontree Bus Garage to talk to a group of TfL bus drivers about the challenges blind and partially sighted people face when travelling on buses.

We gave them spectacles to wear which simulated 6 common eye conditions: macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, tunnel vision with cataracts (RP), hemianopia and cataracts.  Then, we asked them to read bus numbers, locate seats, and get on and off the bus.  They all agreed that the tasks were very difficult to do with the simulated spectacles on.

Next, we demonstrated various canes- the long cane, which is used as a mobility aid, the symbol cane, which is shorter and thinner, and used to highlight that a person has a visual impairment, and a long, red and white cane, which is used by people with both a hearing and visual impairment.  The bus drivers explained to us that when they see a person with a cane or guide dog waiting at a bus stop they are obliged to stop regardless if the person has their hand out or not, and they would let them know what bus number it is.

We then discussed an important issue for a majority of VI passengers- when multiple buses arrive at a bus stop it becomes very difficult to see the busses at the back.  Because of this, VI passengers often get left behind.  Therefore, we suggested that subsequent buses behind a trail should wait at the bus stop to allow passengers to find out what the bus numbers are.  Moreover, we mentioned that it’s not always easy to locate the Oyster card reader, as well as find an empty seat.  The drivers said that passengers with a freedom pass do not have to tap the reader.  They can show it to the driver, or the driver will know by seeing a white cane or guide dog.   Furthermore, most buses have mirrors that allow the driver to see the entire bus, so they asked if it would be helpful if they should inform VI passengers where the empty seats are.  Lastly, we also advised the bus drivers that if a bus is re-routed/diverted or stopped short of its destination, then it is helpful to have an audio-announcement.  Without one, a vision impaired person does not know where they are on their journey and can leave them feeling lost and disoriented.

Overall, the outcome of the meeting was very positive.  The drivers who participated in our vision awareness training were glad they attended.  It’s always a pleasure to work with organisations like TfL to help improve the quality of travel for people living with sight loss.  Before you go, I would love to hear about your experience of travelling on public transport so we can give feedback at future training sessions.

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Photo of Bhavini and Masuma with a bus driver who is wearing a simulated spectacle.

Written by Bhavini Makwana, ELVis Activities Coordinator

Edited by Ray Calamaan, ELVis Communications Coordinator

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Dementia Awareness Training with Redbridge Council

While here at ELVis we obviously focus on the issues surrounding sight loss, it’s worthwhile remembering that people can have complex needs, and sometimes people with a visual impairment can be experiencing other issues as well.

A couple of weeks ago, a few ELVis members of staff went to Redbridge Council to receive training in dementia awareness, to become Dementia Friends.  Dementia and sight loss are more closely related than some people realise. Both conditions tend to be more common in older people; it’s not unlikely that someone could naturally develop both conditions independently of each other, but sight loss can sometimes be a consequence of the dementia itself, or both conditions might originate from the same source, such as a stroke.

Furthermore, a person living with both of these conditions may experience more obstacles than someone with just one of them.  For example, a person with both dementia and sight loss may get disorientated more easily, have an increased risk of falls, or have more difficulty in recognising people.

Therefore, it’s very important to educate ourselves on what dementia is, and what we can do to help those who are living with it, which was exactly what our training covered.

The training began with talking about common ideas and misconceptions about dementia, and we discussed how people with dementia can still communicate effectively, that there is more to a person than their dementia and that it’s possible to live well with the condition.  These were very important messages, as people can often focus solely on the negatives when they or a loved one are diagnosed with dementia. It was encouraging to learn that the future isn’t always as bleak as people might fear.

Another important lesson that we learned from the training was that, while people with dementia may struggle to recall recent ‘factual’ memories, such as where they went at the weekend, they are in general much better at retaining ‘emotional’ memories.  This means that, if someone visits them and they end up having an argument, an hour later they may not remember that they were visited but they’ll still feel upset, whereas if someone visits and they have a great time, although they might not remember the visit later on, they’ll still feel the happiness that the experience brought them.

Learning more about dementia and understanding more about its causes and effects will definitely help us all when interacting with those who are affected in the future, and all of us are proud to be able to call ourselves a Dementia Friend.  Thank you very much to Redbridge Council for providing this training.  If you are interested in learning more, you can go to the Dementia Friends website: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/.

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Photo of Ray, Nicola, and Bhavini from ELVis with Mike O’Hanlon, Dementia Friends trainer and Diversity Programme Manager at Redbridge Council.

Written by Nicola Stokes