Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Out and About: Advanced Mobility

Hammersmith Tube Station

In the last post, I told you a little bit about the basics of mobility. In this post I’ll be talking about some more advanced skills.

Being competent at basic skills is very important. However, the main thing we haven’t covered, is the different areas of travel. Blind people and a considerable amount of visually impaired people, will never be able to drive. However there are lots of ways we can get around on our own and here are some of the things we learn in mobility to be able to do these things.

Buses

Buses are especially important for visually impaired people, as they are a regular and for the most part cheaper service for us than it is for others. At present in the UK, we are entitled to a free bus passes for non-pique time travelling, which reduces the cost we have to pay if we wish for a full bus pass.

Basic bus skills will usually be learnt on a simple route if one is available, that just includes a few stops, commonly to a town centre or shopping area, usually of a small nature. This can then incorporate other areas such as navigating around a bigger shopping environment, than just local shops. As a student’s bus skills increase, they may start doing longer routes which involve multiple buses or longer journeys, depending on their needs, skills and the buses in their area.

How easy a bus route is will involve a number of factors. Firstly, how helpful the bus driver is. This is important, because they need the bus to stop for them when they’re waiting at the stop. Additionally, they usually to be told when they reach their stop, as it is often hard to tell when the bus has reached a particular place, unless there is a good landmark, such as a particularly sharp turn before the stop or going up and down a hill or, something else quite distinct. Secondly good landmarks, are also desirable, for the reasons just expressed. Thirdly, helpful people on the rouse are very important. Drivers are usually somewhat inconsistent. They are often focused on the road and forget that they told the visually impaired person who got on a few minutes ago that they would tell them when they got to such and such a place. Some just assume that someone else will do it and others genuinely don’t care. In my experience of bus travel, other bus passengers are the most reliable source of knowing when to get off, which is quite concerning as even they can be inconsistent.

Bigger Shopping Areas

The experience of going to customer services in a bigger supermarket for example, with a list of shopping is a completely different exercise from going to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread. So, this is another skill area which is covered in bigger shopping areas. With bigger shopping areas, there is also the issue of navigating amongst different shops, which are often laid out across a network of streets. With these bigger areas, there is also a high probability that shops will move around. It is not uncommon for blind and visually impaired people to have to re-visit parts of their local shopping area to go over it throughout their lives.

Catching the Train

This is a very advanced skill, as trains cover bigger distances and there is a lot to think about. Arguably one of the biggest issues is finding one of the multiple train doors on a crowded platform and making sure you don’t fall down the gap between platform and train. All this must be achieved while interacting with the various people who will come up to you and ask you if they can help you, the majority of whom will want to help in all sorts very bizarre ways that aren’t necessarily appropriate. This is because people genuinely do not understand. I have actually had multiple people try to grab hold of me and drag me on to a train before. While this is a highly unpleasant experience, it is not something that is worth spending time stressing about as visually impaired people will be shown strategies to use and only left alone when they are ready.

Seeking Help from the Public and Interacting with Them When They Offer Help

Inevitably, because of the very nature of being blind, people often feel like we might need help. They probably won’t know how to give that help correctly, and we receive varying levels of how good or not a person is at listening to what we are actually saying. Blind people will be taught how to interact with people, to try and minimalise problems. This is an issue often discussed amongst blind people, as interaction with our fellow sighted human beings can bring up all sorts of weird, annoying but also often humourous situations.

What do you think of public transport? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.

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