Blind musician Stevie Wonder once said, “We need to make every single thing accessible for every single person with a disability.”

At London Vision we want all blind and partially sighted people living, working, studying or visiting London to be able to fully access the city’s transport network. We also want them to have the confidence and motivation to be able to travel around independently, instead of having to rely on family and friends.

As part of London Vision’s commitment to travel equality for blind and partially sighted people, London Vision East held a Travel Confidence and Information Day on 21 January. It featured guest speakers from Transport for London and Guide Dogs, who spoke about their services specifically aimed at helping blind and partially sighted people travel with confidence.

To kick things off, London Vision Activities Coordinator, Bhavini Makwana, asked everyone in the room to say two things: what their current travel experience is like and what they would like to learn from the session. Daniel from Tower Hamlets said, “I’m relatively confident on transport, especially on the Docklands Light Railway.” However, Anu from Newham expressed the need for more support with her daily travel. “I’d like to go further afield. I don’t want to feel restricted and only visit places I’ve been before”. Anu’s viewpoint was also echoed in other members’ comments. We heard from another member who spoke about his negative experience on London Overground. Owais fell over when he boarded a train, and no one came to assist him and make sure he was okay. This frightening experience lead to Owais losing his confidence travelling by public transport.

The first guest speaker was Dean Apps from Barking Sensory team, who spoke about the value of cane training and the variety of canes currently available – such as the black cane. The black cane is particularly useful during snowfall because it increases the visibility of blind and partially sighted people to other pedestrians and drivers – in other words, the black stands out in white snow! Dean also demonstrated the correct way to hold a cane without getting your wrist snapped off, which was very helpful for the group to learn. He also spoke briefly about current travel campaigns such as the introduction of speaking timetables on bus stops, and encouraged members to advocate for this technology to be installed at every bus stop in London.

We then heard from Janet Fisher and Amy Edgar from Transport for London (TfL) who spoke about the TfL services available for people with disabilities; these include the Travel Mentoring scheme and the Turn Up and Go scheme. With Turn Up and Go you turn at a station and a member of staff will be able to assist you on to your train. However, Travel Mentoring, where you can plan an accessible route and travel with a member of staff, requires pre-booking, and you can access more information about the service here.

One of the members, Desen who chairs Waltham Forest Vision, and who uses the TfL services, gave them a glowing review. “They’re excellent. Without the Turn Up and Go scheme I wouldn’t be able to attend my meetings on time.”

Bhavini Makwana closed the event by saying: “Travel is an essential part of  everyone’s lives and when individuals are faced with sight loss, this can be a daunting time. The information gained today was extremely useful, and it was good to hear members speak about their travel experience so that others going through similar situations wouldn’t feel alone and, hopefully, feel confident enough to speak up and ask for support.”

Due to the high volume of people interested in attending the event, London Vision East will be holding another Travel Information Day in the near future.  If you would like to register your interest, please get in touch with us by email: [email protected]

Written by Raymond Calamaan