Travelling with a white cane
I have experienced a few different modes of transport now whilst using my white cane, and have to say, in the main they have all been much better experiences than I imagined they would be.
I want to start by saying that some people offer you their seats when all seats are taken, but not everyone does. HOWEVER, I hold absolutely NO grudge against people who choose not to. My view on this is that I can walk, and I can stand, I’m not in a wheelchair and have the use of my legs, hands and arms, therefore, I don’t need a seat more than anyone else. Other passengers on a bus, train, coach and plane have all paid for their travel the same as I have :well, in some cases, they have paid more than I have for their travel” so, they are entitled to their seats and their comfort.
Personally, before my visual impairment, if I ever noticed someone with any form of disability, I would offer my seat, but that was my choice – no one made me or expected me to. I like to blend into the background wherever I go, but now with a white cane, and my glasses, it kind of prevents me from being able to do that, and makes me very noticeable – so, I don’t want to be even more noticeable by expecting every man and his dog to bow down to my disability and offer me their seats. If they do, then thats great, if they don’t, then thats great too. There, thats out of the way 🙂
This is somewhat, in my experience hit and miss. Yes, there are travel concessions for those with visual impairment, but, I am not sure as to what Level of training bus drivers, bus station personnel are given to recognise disabilities and to be of assistance with those in need of it.
I have travelled on my local bus quite often now, and also a little wider afield and whilst no bus driver has ever been rude or unhelpful, neither have they actually given that little bit extra. I have asked bus drivers to shout when its my stop, and they haven’t (but hey, we all forget things). Occasionally busses have set off as soon as I am on the step just inside enough for them to close the doors, and set off before I have even given them my pass.
One Information service desk guy on the upper level of Bradford Interchange was positively rude, and totally oblivious of my visual impairment, despite my making my way to him with my white cane. Despite me telling him that I cannot see very well, and asking for further explanation where to find the bus I needed, he continued to just say it was over there. So, I thanked him and started to walk away – fortunately fore me. a PCSO was walking by at the time and heard the conversation. He asked if I wanted an y help, and walked with me to the correct place and even told em how long the bus was going to be, and then came back when the bus was due to make sure I was ok.
Every time I have telephoned the Metro, they have been amazingly helpful, explaining how the concession card works, and how to plan journeys easier with different phone apps. They even help plan a journey for me on the telephone, telling me what busses I need, what times they are, where the stops are and how many stops after a particular stop I need to get off – totally amazing.
All of my experiences on the trains as a visually impaired person have been first class, and thats without using their advance assistance request service, whereby you can telephone 24-48 hours before and request assistance at your starting Train station and also the station at the end of your journey.
Platform gate staff have always been great, as soon as they see me approach, they have opened the gate for me, saving me from having to fumble with my ticket trying to find the slot.
When I have got onto the platform itself, the train guard or conductor has always asked me of I needed assistance, and has even walked me to a vacant seat and asked what stop I am wanting to get off of. When It is my stop, they will open the doors, let passengers off and then come help me off – which has just being fabulous and very reassuring. I couldn’t ask for anything more of them.
Travelling by Aeroplane
The first time I have travelled by air with a visual impairment is the holiday I am actually on at the moment. I have been astounded by the amazing service of all airport personnel, flight gate attendants, check in staff and security staff.
I am amazed at how efficient and attentive airport staff are. When ever they spotted me with. my cane, they ushered me from the general line into an almost “no wait” line at every opportunity, this also included my travel companions. Whenever we were approaching anywhere in a line, a member pf staff would simply open up a barrier, as if by magic.
Going through security both in the UK and the USA was remarkable. Never before have I experienced service like this. We did not wait to go through security or customs at all, and each member off staff I came into contact with were professional, friendly and extremely helpful. When walking me through any scanners, they would take my cane to scan , but then guide me to the scanner, help me through there and then pat me down. All the time fully explaining what they were doing. This meant that at no time did I feel left alone, or wondering what was going on. I don’t, for one moment think that I could have asked for any better.
Even US customs were remarkable when checking my passport, taking my finger print scans the customs officer said he would help me with everything, placed my fingers where they needed to be for the scans etc. US customs has always been, in the past a long wait and I always found staff to be curt to the point of rude on occasion – so I was amazed at how they helped me as a person with a visual impairment.
I do feel very reliant on people who provide public transport services, and this makes me feel nervous before any journey, and anxious about getting to my destination and also back again safely. I do feel like my independence has been mostly taken away as a result of my visual impairment, but this is something I am just going to have to come to terms with. However, as above, I am having mainly positive and outstanding experiences from staff who do not seem to think of me as a burden, which is brilliant.
My top travel tips when using public transport
- Make use of the public transport apps available for use with your mobile phone.
- Plan your journey ahead of time, use the public transport online resources for information, bus.train times etc
- Book assistance for your journeys in advance if you feel you need it. This is free of charge and can be an awesome experience.
- Use your Travel/Concession card
- If you have a white cane – USE IT. This way, people actually know you may need assistance, and are therefore m ore likely to offer it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Most people will oblige
- Many busses often stop at the same Bus stop – If you write down the number of the bus you want on a large piece of paper with a Bold Black Marker pen and hold it in front go you, a little to the side, a lot of busses will stop and the driver tell you his is the bus you want, and if they are not, and no one else wants to get on or off, the bus will simply drive by.