Blogging 101:Thank You Translink

Today our local public transport provider Translink, took part in a fantastic event to understand the difficulties faced by visually impaired people.

This morning, i headed up to Belfast to meet the chief executive of Translink along with some people from guide dogs. The chief executive was going to be doing a blind fold walk with a training guide dog to understand some of the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people in relation to public transport. While we waited for everyone to arrive, we had time to stop for a quick cup of tea.

When the people from guide dogs arrived, i was asked if i would do a phone interview with the radio station
U105
As they were running a feature on the event. The station also wanted to talk to the campaignes manager from Guide dogs about what was happening.

After that, we headed back to meet the others. Altogether, there were 3 guide dog owners including me and 2 white cane users. We also met with a couple of Translink people including the chief executive himself. A lady from the BBC was there too, and again, they wanted me to do an interview about how i found Translinks services.

Next, it was time for the chief executive to put on the blind fold and walk with a dog. He was with a guide dog mobility instructor totalk him through the experience. The journey started at Translinks office across the road from the train station. He had to walk in to the station, before going to get a train and experiencing the level of assistance offered to help him out to the train. We all climbed aboard to join him and discuss how we found the service. I must add personally here that the level of assistance on the trains is second to none. All the train staff are trained in how to sighted guide a visually impaired person, as well as how to deal with getting wheelchair users on board too. It’s as if it is second nature to them and nothing is too much of a problem for them.

After that, we headed back in again where it was on to a goldliner bus. These busses are the busses that run outside of Belfast. I stayed behind though with someone from Translink as it was all getting a bit too much for the training dog, what with there being 3 other guide dogs to distract him. Plus, there isn’t really a lot of room on the Gold liner busses. Ushi goes right up to the back of them because that’s where she can find the most room. So i think it was a bit of a tight squeeze to get the other dogs on and comfortable.

For the metro bus which was next, it was just one other guide dog owner who went on out of all of us. We stayed behind to look at a new app that is in testing at the minute to help people locate busses around them. It’s not going too well, so i think there are more tweeks to be done to it. The train and the gold liner weren’t moving, but the Metro bus was so that the chief could see the audio announcements in action. The blind fold was taken off between each thing i think, but am not too sure.

We hung about for a while before heading back over to the Translink office to watch a dvd that Guide dogs had made a few years ago discussing best practices for busses pulling up to the kerb and such. We discussed that before wrapping things up.

I would like to thank Translink for letting us chat to the chief and for him taking on the blind fold challenge. Fair play to him!

If anyone would like to hear my radio interviews, you can
Listen to my interview with Frank Mitchel
And you can
Listen to tonights Edition of Evening Extra
Where the report is about 12 minutes in.

It was a really fabulous day. It couldn’t have gone any better. Fair play again to the chief executive and to Translink in general for letting the chief experience this somewhat challenging day for him.

As a side note, i must work on my “ums” and “ya knows” on radio :).

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Hello Talking Bus

I’m just home from a fabulous day. Today was the launch of the first talking busses in Northern Ireland.

Back in 2011, a pilot was launched to trial the audio visual announcements on the busses. It was only on one of the Metro 5A busses. From what i remember it was only on for a limitted time as well. The pilot was a success, so then lots of meetings with the Minister for regional development insued, along with lots and lots of campaigning.

IN October last year, the minister for regional development announced that funding had become available and the audio visual system would start to be rolled out by the end of the financial year on some of the metro services. This was great news to look forward to.

I found out last week that the service was going to be launched today. Of course i was very keen to go, as i had been so heavily involved in trying to get it rolled out.

So this morning, a lot of us met at Donnygall square west. Translink put on a bus especially for the launch, so it was a bus that went a different route than it normally would go. I can tell you, it was rather tight as we had at least 7 guide dogs, and more were at the Scanos centre which was where we were heading. I thought it was cool! All the stops were announced. I wanted to sit on the bus all day to see where it would go lol! The stops were announced as you would come up to them to give the driver time to stop and so that you could ring the bell in time to get off. The stops were also displayed on a screen. The company who made the technologywere called Vex technologies and apparently they were the ones who put the equiptment in to the London busses.

When we got to the Scanos centre, there were yet more guide dogs. There were about 30-40 people altogether with and without dogs. There were a few speeches to get done plus a cup of tea and a scone, of course.

We all then crammed back on the bus, and it was an even tighter squeeze to get all of us on. We headed up to Stormont to meet with the minister for regional development and to get lots of photos taken. The belfast telegraph were there as well as Cool FM and City beat radio stations who interviewed the minister. I made a bit of a mistake at this point though. The minister was asking how i was and i accidentally called him by his first name when i was talking to him. Oops. He didn’t even notice though. I just thought he was a person like everyone else, so why wouldn’t i call him by his first name. I’ll know for future though.

Lots of photos were taken both on and off the bus, and the minister went on the bus for a bit and we then headed back to stormont for some more photos.

By this stage, most of us needed a comfort break, so we headed over to Dundonald park and ride to avail of the facilities before going back to Donnygall square West where we’d started from.

It was a brilliant day. It’s only some of the busses that will have it from tomorrow onwards, but hopefully it will be eventually on all the metros. I hope even more that it will be eventually on the ulster busses too that are outside of Belfast.

I would like to thank the minister for agreeing to install it, plus Translink itself. It will make such a difference to so many people. It’ll be interesting to see what the public think of it.

Who knows, it might even make me want to go to yoga again lol.