A Borders bus operator is set to become the first in the bus industry to provide drivers with training to help blind or partially sighted people.
First Scotland East drivers will start their training this month. In designing the bespoke training package for its drivers First has been working closely with leading charity, Guide Dogs, who provide the ‘My Guide’ sighted guiding scheme.
Drivers will be encouraged to either verbally guide or physically assist customers that may have problems with their sight to their seats, and urged to alert customers when their stop is approaching. In training, drivers will also be blindfolded so they can play the role of a blind passenger and therefore better understand the needs and concerns of such customers.
Leading the training is Mike Wilson, First’s training manager. He said: “We are setting new standards of customer service across our operations in the UK and I’m proud that First Scotland East is at the forefront of that.
“By improving our customer proposition we will encourage more people to travel by bus and to travel by bus more often.”
Mike is also a Guide Dog Walker in his spare time and he’ll be sourcing help from six month old Labrador, ‘Paris’, when drivers are given their extra training.
He added: “Paris is currently at the early part of her journey to become a fully trained guide dog. She will spend roughly a year with me learning some of the basics before starting her official training from May 2014. She enjoys travelling by bus and will help me put our drivers through their paces.”
Sighted Guide Ambassador for Guide Dogs, Pam Stringer, said: “Freedom and independence are a crucial part of life, regardless of how much you can or cannot see.
The My Guide scheme from Guide Dogs trains people as sighted guides who can confidently assist people who are blind or partially sighted when out and about.
“Guide Dogs is delighted to work closely with First to provide My Guide training to its staff and hope that this improved service will go a long way in helping those who currently lack the confidence to venture out alone, to feel empowered to do so.”
First Scotland East’s Charity and Sponsorship Committee awarded £2,500 to Guide Dogs and First employees decided to call the puppy, which is due to be born around Christmas, ‘Seymour’.