Being blind, I often use public transport. I like trains because there are announcements that tell you where you are. Buses however, are a little more challenging.
I usually tell the bus driver where I want to get off and ask them to let me know when we have reached my stop. Many bus drivers are very helpful and remember my stop. But sometimes they forget or they stop at the wrong place. This can make bus travel quite stressful. Recently though, I have discovered a kind of bus that may put an end to my stressful bus catching experiences.
Standing at the bus stop I hear the bus pull in. The doors open. A recorded announcement tells me which bus it is and where it's going. For the first time in my life, I don't have to ask someone to tell me the bus number. I board the bus with confidence, knowing this trip is going to be different.
I settle into a seat and start chatting to the girl in the seat behind me. I am completely relaxed. I know that it will take around twenty minutes to reach my destination so I don't have to worry about getting off for a while yet.
In the background I can hear the radio and regular announcements letting me know which stop is coming up next. My newfound friend disembarks the bus a few minutes before we are due to reach my stop. I discretely locate the button to indicate that I wish to get off at the next stop. I want to be sure that I will be able to press it when I need to.
A special moment
I sit up straight. I wiggle my toes in anticipation. All my attention is fixed on listening for the recorded announcements. This is a special moment. I know that, for the first time in my life, I am going to independently let the driver know where I want to get off.
The stop before mine is announced. I ready my finger to press the button. I hear the announcement I have been waiting for. I push the button. The buzzer sounds. I hear the wheels cross the tram tracks. I'm now sure I have chosen the correct stop. The driver stops the bus. I thank him and let him know how much I appreciate the Smart Bus announcements. I disembark with a huge smile and skip off down the road.
I have been given a gift. It may not seem like much but today I have been able to do something for myself, which I have never done before. Small steps toward equality and independence such as these deserve to be celebrated. It is important such achievements are celebrated and that those who have helped them to come to pass are recognised for their efforts.
To those involved with making the Smart Bus a reality, I wholeheartedly commend you.