A major disability charity has said a £300,000 smart bus shelter could have easily included developments to help passengers with sight difficulties
A £300,000 government funded smart bus shelter in Manchester doesn’t make travelling easier for blind passengers, RNIB has said.
The sight loss charity said the UK Department for Transport (DfT) must ensure that future transport technology developments consider the needs of disabled passengers.
The shelter near Manchester Picadilly gives people free wifi and allows them to wirelessly charge their mobile phones while waiting for the bus. It also includes digital touchscreens that can update passengers on news, travel and city information.
There are about two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK, and they have a right to access the same services and benefit from the same improvements as everyone els
The new hub is a joint project by Transport for Greater Manchester, JCDecaux and RATP and is funded by the DfT. It is designed to make it easier for passengers to get around the North West city.
However it doesn’t include any specific features for blind and partially sighted passengers, such as braille maps or voice announcements to update passengers on approaching services or delays.
Terry Hawkins, head of business to business solutions at RNIB Business said the needs of blind passengers should have been considered.
“While RNIB welcomes anything that improves customers’ experiences, it is vital that local and central government investments like these take into account the needs of all members of society,” he said.
“There are about two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK, and they have a right to access the same services and benefit from the same improvements as everyone else.
“£300,000 to install this technology at a public bus shelter is a significant investment, and it would not take much more investment to include accessibility upgrades to make bus travel easier for all commuters.”
Research conducted by RNIB, reviewing experiences of blind and partially sighted people in the UK revealed barriers to travel and transport remain a major issue. A total of 40% of blind and partially sighted people said they were not able to make all the journeys that they wanted or needed to.
Hawkins added: “We would urge that, when thinking about transport users, blind and partially sighted people are considered as much as everybody else.
“To ensure services are truly accessible requires collaboration in the early stages of design with organisation such as RNIB.”
RNIB’s recent Techshare conference in Glasgow highlighted the work it is doing with technology giants like Google and Amazon to make technology accessible. Some of the developments include AI powered glasses that can turn print into audio, home appliances that can be controlled through voice recognition and even a driverless car.