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Harlow MP feels what it is like to travel “Like a blind person”.

Politics / Mon 7th Dec 2015 at 12:40pm

Halfon BlindHARLOW MP, Robert Halfon MP went on a blindfolded bus journey with the Guide Dogs charity and Harlow constituent Mandy Smith and her guide dog Holly.

Robert Halfon said:

“I wore a blindfold for the duration of the bus journey to understand the difficulties that people with sight impairments have when using public transport. Having access to public transport is incredibly important to ensure that those with sight difficulties can still be independent and have access to their local services and their communities.

The Audio Visual announcements on the bus made the travelling far more accessible.

Without having these announcements to let passengers know which stop they are at, it makes it very difficult for visually impaired people to travel alone. They risk missing their stop, not knowing where they are, getting lost and putting themselves in unnecessary danger.

Having the Audio Visual announcements on buses makes the difference between them feeling comfortable and confident to go out alone and becoming isolated in their homes with no access to transport.

I will be urging the Secretary of State for Transport to see what he can do to look at encouraging councils and bus companies to ensure that all new buses have proper audio equipment. I am asking Essex County Council to do the same and to do everything they can to support people with visual impairments using public transport. I have also written to the major bus companies in Harlow to ask what they are doing to make their buses accessible to the visually impaired and disabled.”

Harlow constituent Mandy Smith, has a visual impairment and a guide dog called Holly who was supplied by the Guide Dogs Charity.

Mandy said:

“I was very pleased to meet with Robert and go on the bus with him this morning. I would like for all new buses to have the Audio Visual equipment installed. As someone with sight loss, we really need the audio to know where we are and when to get off the bus”.

Some buses, including in many in London already have Audio Visual equipment and this makes a huge difference to the accessibility of the city. However, this standard isn’t implemented across the UK. For places like Harlow and it’s surrounding villages, there is little support for visually impaired bus users and the means that they are a lot more isolated.

James White, Guide Dogs Senior Campaigns Manager, said:

“The charity Guide Dogs was delighted Mr Halfon took part in our blindfold bus challenge today, alongside his constituent Mandy and her guide dog Holly.

Audio visual ‘next stop’ announcements on buses improve access to public transport for all, particularly disabled people, older people and those who are visually impaired who rely on announcements to know where they are on a journey.

Accessible public transport is essential for people with sight loss, improving access to jobs and training, shopping and leisure opportunities. Guide Dogs is calling for all new buses to be fitted with audio visual technology, to bring them in line with the existing requirements for trains.”

Since the bus journey this morning, Robert Halfon has written letters to Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Cllr Rodney Bass, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, and Harlow bus companies, urging for them to do everything possible to facilitate for people with visual impairments on public transport.

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