Anything done for the first time is an adventure, so three weeks ago I arranged for a few of us ‘low vision buddies’ to go to the Waterfront on the MyCiTi bus. Armed with white canes, magnifiers and sunglasses we set off. We all have different eye conditions and 2 of us use symbol canes. All VIPs, or Visually Impaired Persons.
You will be pleased to know that we had a fully sighted driver to get us to the bus station in Tableview.
We stepped up onto the walkway between the car park and the road, so that we could get safely to the pedestrian crossing, but when the motorists saw the white canes and this bunch of ‘blindies’, they slammed on breaks and waited for us to cross the road right there and then. All three lanes were stopped for this spectacle, so we gratefully scurried across to the bus station. You would think I was carrying a magic wand… not a white cane! (Thank you to the observant motorists – even though they forced us to break the traffic rules!).
At the MyCiTi bus station the security Gard showed us which way to walk to the kiosk. The lady there was also very friendly and helpful as we armed ourselves with bus cards with the right amount of money to get us safely there and back. I showed my cane–wielding friend how to use the channelled paving by putting the end into the groove and just letting it slide along in front of one. I am not sure if this is how it is meant to be used, but miraculously, everyone gets out of the way, thus magically removing all mobile obstacles.
We went to the gate where passengers were queueing for the bus to the Waterfront, and once again we were accosted with unheeded kindness, and were, under no circumstances, allowed to queue at the back of the line. (In some ways we enjoyed, and were grateful for, this unmerited favour, but also wanted to just be treated as ‘normal’).
The bus ride was great, and each member in our little party was excited to be on-the–way anywhere, independently. We stopped off at the terminus to let everyone ‘look’ around and orientate themselves. One couple was particularly excited about being able to get to the Artscape theatre without having to even cross a street. The marshals at the station seemed a bit concerned for us at first, but slowly got up to speed with our intentions, showing us the different gates, and even enthusiastically helping us locate ‘the facilities’ (as they are so politely known to be in England). Eventually we hopped onto the next bus and headed for coffee at the Waterfront. When the bus stops an audio tells you, “Doors open” … quite useful for the totally blind or fully inebriated. The location of each stop appears in big letters on an electronic screen at the front of the bus, but none of us could read it so we just asked out fellow passengers. (I’m sure they could add a voice description if enough visually impaired folk used the bus). As we approached Granger Bay I looked out the window and asked my friend, “Oh, is that the sea?” we all burst out laughing … I am obviously not used to traveling with other VIP’s. I think some people thought we were crazy, but it was such fun adventuring together.
It was wonderful to see how many folk are using the bus, reducing traffic, and avoiding parking headaches. There is even a double cycle path along that route….. maybe not for the blind?
I would like to thank the MyCiTi bus service for their largely, access, friendly service. There are some design aspects that could make the service easier to navigate, but then we would have missed out on the public kindness and enthusiastic support.
I also want to encourage all people with disabilities, or loss of ability, to get out and about. It is less scary than you think and we need to help the public to be less afraid of disability.