This is an article that I wrote for guide dogs in early October.
A few months ago, I heard an interesting conversation on the radio about a person’s experience of riding on a bus with audio announcements. The presenter and the caller were in agreement that it was an annoyance to them and they couldn’t see the point in having such a disturbance on a bus. This was the prompt that I needed to get my phone out and send a message to the presenter (very politely may I add) to say that I enjoyed his show but did he realise that having such announcements on the buses meant that many visually impaired people could now get out and about, travel independently and that such a facility opened up so many opportunities to us. He read my text out on air, said that he’d never actually thought of it that way and thanked me for my kind and useful response.
As information to many people is visual, then audio does tend to be more of an annoyance than anything else. If it’s not seen then the assumption is it cannot be true. For instance locating venues is by recognition of what it looks like, how someone is feeling is indicated by the way they look and if something is not written down in print then it surely cannot be right. How many times though can many people say that misjudgements have made by simply looking at something? For example, ‘oh I thought that was the shop I was looking for, it did look familiar but it clearly wasn’t’, ‘Well she did look upset but she was only concentrating and was quite happy’ and ‘well, yes, Untruths can be written down, maybe if I heard them spoken, it would help to know if they were right or not’.
Listening can often tell more than looking at something; listening to something often determines if something is right or not.
Yesterday, I went on the 110 Arriva bus, from Leeds bus station to Wakefield on a work appointment. Arriva, some time ago, introduced audio announcements onto this route under the banner of a sapphire service. This was the first time that I had been to the venue where I was travelling to so it was an excellent opportunity to test out the system. It worked brilliantly for me and demonstrated the huge benefit of having audio announcements on buses. I knew the stop that I was aiming for and true to form, when it was announced, I got off and was there. If I had to solely rely on the driver to let me know where I was, then it wouldn’t have been certain that he would have remembered.
This service must be rolled out to other services because the scope of increasing independent and inclusive travel is enormous. Just think, going to the shop or the concert venue that you’ve always wanted to but felt barred from doing so because you never knew where to get off the bus? Audio announcements have benefits for those who can see as well. Ah yes, how many times do you people asking the driver or fellow passengers where a particular stop is? Well, by listening to what the smart voice on the bus speaker is saying then the worries and concerns are diminished.