The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has published an insightful new report that details the range of barriers that blind and partially people face due to inaccessible public transport.
Entitled ‘Inclusive Journeys: Improving the accessibility of public transport for people with sight loss’, the report was funded by Motability and details common issues faced by blind and partially sighted people when making journeys.
It also includes a checklist and details of RNIB’s services for transport providers to help them create an accessible world that works for everyone.
There are around 340,000 people registered blind or partially sighted in the UK and an estimated two million people are living with sight loss that affects their daily lives, the report emphasises.
Many blind and partially sighted people tell RNIB that better accessibility to transport and public places is the most important factor to improve their quality of life.
However, one of the key findings of the report reveals many are not able to make the journeys they want to, with 33 percent rarely or never using public transport.
A lot of blind and partially sighted people also noted that job and leisure choices are based on which places are the easiest and quickest to get to. This limits their ability to work and participate in society, which affects their independence and contributes to social isolation.
In addition, the level of planning and preparation for journeys is significantly higher for blind and partially sighted people. Over half find it difficult to plan an unfamiliar journey. Adding to this, more than 75 percent of blind and partially sighted people feel nervous about travelling to unfamiliar places, and while most feel safe, nearly one in five do not.
The report underlines that the presence and visibility of trained staff increases confidence, especially for unfamiliar journeys and if unexpected changes happen.
Many blind and partially sighted people told RNIB that improving public awareness of sight loss is a priority to challenge misconceptions and change perceptions. Likewise, while most public transport staff are friendly and helpful, around 10 percent of blind and partially sighted people reported negative experiences. Staff training is important to help tackle this issue, the report notes.
Worryingly, over half of blind and partially sighted people find it difficult to navigate public transport facilities.
The report explains: “There is a need for environments and transport modes to incorporate best practice in accessibility:
- “Physical features: Tactile paving, detectible curbs, handrails, lifts, clear routes, step-free access
- “Visual clarity: Clear signage and markings, colour contrast
- “Audio design: Accurate, frequent, and clear audio announcements on buses and trains.
“However, availability and consistency of these design features and services varies greatly across transport modes and regions and is especially poor in rural areas.”
Importantly, the report outlines that accessible environments should not just be restricted to built environments but also digital spaces. Accessible online information and compatibility with access technology is critical.
Interestingly, the report recognises the benefit of technology, such as smartphones and travel apps, to increase the confidence of blind and partially sighted people. Such technology can be used to plan journeys, access maps and timetables, magnify information on their journey, confirm walking routes between stations, and much more.
However, despite these benefits of technology in increasing confidence and independence, only a quarter of people with sight loss use technology regularly on public transport.
Based on the report’s findings, RNIB is now calling for transport providers to make their services more accessible to enable blind and partially sighted people to travel independently and live a fulfilled life. The charity also emphasises that accessible design is better for everyone not just people with sight loss.