Xplore Dundee: making bus travel accessible for all
Driver Training Instructors (l-r) Willie Crosbie, Ann Carty and Jon Eggleton
Dundee’s main bus operator is moving forward in making public transport more accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
The company’s training scheme for customers with mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs has just been shortlisted for the Scottish Transport Awards 2018, in the Category of ‘Accessibility Project of the Year’.
The initiative has been running for the past five years and this year has assisted its 30th person to achieve better access to public transport and increased independence. The bus operator’s skilled team of Driver Training Instructors provides a bespoke training session for mobility scooter users at a time and place convenient to the customer.
More recently, the training has been extended to patients receiving treatment at the TORT centre (Tayside Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Technology Centre) at Ninewells. Driving Instructors take a bus to the hospital and make it available for new wheelchair users to practice boarding and disembarking so that they’re more comfortable with using public transport.
Judith, a recent recipient of the training, declared it ‘life changing’: “I can't tell you what being able to take my wheelchair on a bus will mean to me. I'm 46yrs old and am desperate to get out and about. The fact that Xplore offers this service is genuinely life-changing for the likes of me and I can't thank them enough. I'd like to let them know what a vital service this is for someone in my situation.”
These individual training sessions show mobility scooter or electric wheelchair users how to safely board the bus via the ramp operated by the driver, park the scooter in the allocated area and disembark. Once these three skills have been learned, the passenger receives a permit which is valid for use on all Xplore buses and many other operators’ vehicles. The card is shown to the driver to prove that the passenger and their scooter are capable of boarding a low floor bus.
Xplore Dundee has a fleet of 100% low-floor vehicles and welcomes passengers with wheelchairs as well as CPT-compliant mobility scooters. Anyone with a scooter of the correct size and weight is entitled to receive the training, which is arranged at a time and place to suit the customer.
Xplore Dundee Managing Director Elsie Turbyne said: “We work hard to make our buses accessible for as many customers as possible, and our mobility training is an important part of that. Our driving instructors have been offering bespoke training to people with electric scooters and wheelchairs for five years now and it is really fantastic to hear how life-changing this assistance can be.
“This is well-deserved recognition for the hard work and customer service skills demonstrated by our training team. I’m very proud of them and of all our drivers who do their best to assist people of all ages and abilities to board the bus on a daily basis.”
As well as scooter and wheelchair training, Xplore Dundee is also making an extra effort to make sure each driver undergoes disability awareness training, including education on mental health issues and hidden illnesses. Every driver will undertake a new course to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to treat individuals with due consideration.
Drivers and managers recently undertook ‘Swap with Me’ training with RNIB Scotland to allow them a real-life glimpse of what it’s like to travel on the bus as a blind or partially sighted person. It’s hoped this kind of coaching can be rolled out to more staff in the near future.