A MASKED MP had his ‘eyes opened’ into the problems faced by blind and partially sighted people travelling on public buses.
Vale MP Alun Cairns joined visually impaired residents and some of their guide dogs when he boarded the 95 Barry Island Cardiff Bus for a round-trip from King Square to the Island and back on Friday, May 2.
The MP took the trip with his eyesight temporarily obscured by an airline mask to attempt to experience some of the issues surrounding travel.
Guide Dogs Cymru was on hand to ensure his safe journey.
Users reported it was difficult to identify their specified stop minus correct audio information or without correct information from drivers or fellow passengers.
Guide dog owners said their dogs were only trained in a limited number of routes and problems arise when a company makes changes to its service area.
Difficulties also arise with boarding and disembarking from buses.
A survey for Guide Dogs last year showed many blind and partially sighted people in Wales are unable to enjoy the freedom that others take for granted because they find travelling by bus so difficult. Fears include getting off at the wrong stop and being lost in an unfamiliar area.
Guide Dogs is calling for all buses in Wales to feature next-stop audio announcements to help passengers with sight loss.
Engagement manager for Guide Dogs Cymru and a guide dog owner herself, Andrea Gordon said: "Audio announcements on buses make a huge difference to passengers with sight loss. Guide Dogs wants all buses to be Talking Buses, fitted with on-board audio-visual technology which announces bus routes, destinations and next stops. We also want more training for bus drivers, so they know how to support passengers who are blind and partially sighted."
Doreen Wolfe, 80, of Dinas Powys, made the journey with husband Terry and nine-year-old black labrador guide dog, Pam.
Doreen said: “We are just trying to get people to understand. We just want the same rights as everybody else.”
Roy Maggs, 68, of Penarth, said: “They change the routes and the audio is not always how it should be. They don’t catch up if they miss a stop.
“If you want to experience it go to a familiar place at home and go and try and make a cup of tea.”
Vale MP Alun Cairns said the experience had been “remarkable”.
He said: “It was quite a life-changing experience. I had never appreciated the social and practical physical difficulties.
“I will talk to everyone who’s blind or partially sighted to make sure they know where they are and they know the right stop.”
For information, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk