Harrogate Bus Company gives a helping hand to visually impaired

Harrogate’s leading bus operator, The Harrogate Bus Company, has teamed up with a charity working with visually impaired people to help make travel easier for two local young people.

By Graham Chalmers
Monday, 16th May 2022, 5:27 pm
Amy, 16, makes her way to her seat on a Harrogate Electrics bus provided by The Harrogate Bus Company, supported by trainer Jessica Fawkes from the Guide Dogs charity.
Amy, 16, makes her way to her seat on a Harrogate Electrics bus provided by The Harrogate Bus Company, supported by trainer Jessica Fawkes from the Guide Dogs charity.

Amy, who’s 16, lives with her family, while 26-year-old Sam lives in shared accommodation based at Harrogate’s Henshaws College Campus, run and supported by the North Yorkshire Care Team.

Both are severely sight impaired and have had difficulties until now in using public transport to travel across the area because of their vision impairment.

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Visually impaired bus user Sam, 26, with (from left); Duty Manager Mark Smith and General Manager Steve Ottley from The Harrogate Bus Company, and Jessica Fawkes and Victoria Appleby-Smith from Guide Dogs.

The bus firm has now joined forces with the Guide Dogs charity, which works with blind and visually impaired people to help them live life without barriers, to run a special training session at its Starbeck depot to help Amy and Sam to practise boarding a bus, using a ticket, making a journey, and alighting at the end of a trip.

The training was led by a qualified habilitation specialist, and the successful outcome will support Amy and Sam’s applications for a Guide Dog.

Jessica Fawkes from Guide Dogs said: “We’re very grateful to everyone at The Harrogate Bus Company for their help in making this happen for Amy and Sam.

"Both are now more confident about using the bus on their own after practising with support and advice from the bus firm’s own team, who couldn’t do enough to help.

“Being able to use the bus will open up so many opportunities for Amy and Sam – they’ll both be able to travel independently without worrying about how to manage in situations which can be especially challenging with a visual impairment.”

The Harrogate Bus Company’s General Manager Steve Ottley said: “When we heard about Amy and Sam, we wanted to do everything we could to help them feel more able to use our buses, and so we provided one of our buses along with our duty manager Mark Smith to support them in feeling safe while they travel with us.

“The benefits of bus travel should be something which everyone can enjoy, and for people with a disability, whether visual or otherwise, being able to use our buses confidently really changes their lives for the better. We’re very happy to help Amy and Sam, and we look forward to welcoming them onto our buses again very soon.”

As part of their training, drivers at The Harrogate Bus Company receive instruction on how to support customers with various disabilities as they travel, including use of lowering suspension and ramps to make boarding and alighting easier for wheelchair users, and assisting with using the dedicated wheelchair space on board each bus.

Full details of all services provided by The Harrogate Bus Company are available online at: transdevbus.co.uk/harrogate.