Getting the bus when you can hardly see is a daunting task.
How are you going to get to the bus stop? Will you get the right bus? Can you sit down? How do you know when to get off?
But for thousands of residents in Lancashire, this is a struggle they face on a regular basis.
Terry Hazell, who lives in a bungalow in Howick Park Avenue, which is part of Galloway’s Society for the Blind, travels to the city centre on the bus three or four times a week.
Using his white stick, he walks to the bus stop at Howick shops in Liverpool Road, Penwortham, which is approximately 0.04km from his home.
The 58-year-old holds a bright yellow flip book (a hailer) which states BUS and the number 02 to indicate to drivers he is blind and looking for the Stagecoach bus 02 which goes into Preston.
He says: “I get the bus quite a lot to Preston bus station or the railway station. I have a NoWcard pass which states I have a disability.
“I can get to the bus stop reasonably well as I have my stick. Sometimes there are obstacles but my stick helps find a parked car or the end of the kerb.
“Sometimes as I am crossing the road, cars will give way and let me cross.
“I can read the bus timetable with a magnifying glass.
“Some drivers are helpful and others are not. Some lower the bus so I can walk on and they take my bus pass to scan it, whilst others expect you to put it through the scanner yourself. I find usually they are quite patient.
“Sometimes the disabled seats are not empty which can be a pain as I have to find another empty seat further up the bus. Sometimes people get up, but I have a lot of problems with school children who refuse to get up.
“Being blind does not mean you have to stay in the same four walls of your home. There are a lot of people who will help you when you are out shopping.
“I feel reasonably comfortable getting the bus on my own if it is my regular route.
“But I had to go to Leyland and I had never been on that route before so it took me a lot of time to work it all out and know which buses to get and which stops.
“The Galloway’s minibuses are so valuable to us as they pick us up from our homes and take us to places. It saves us a lot of hassle.”
Terry lost his sight in 2009 after he developed retinopathy through diabetes.
He says: “My sight just went. I woke up one morning and my sight was not there.
“I went to the hospital and I was diagnosed with retinopathy. I went into a deep depression for a year as I felt I was the only one.
“I used to be a lorry driver so I lost my job.
“My partner at the time got me in touch with Galloway’s and it changed my life so much. I met some brilliant people and I realised I was not alone.
“They helped me with a lot of things, as I learnt IT and joined the gardening club. I really enjoy that I as love watching things grow.
“I can have a chat with people and I feel a lot calmer about things. I can focus on the activities here, rather than the regular grind of life.”
Stuart Clayton, chief executive officer at Galloway’s adds: “You find that people take a while to get their pass out and drivers get impatient so they set off before the person has sat down. This makes it very difficult for someone who is not very mobile and can’t see, especially if there are no free disabled seats.
“Our service users have big hailers but sometimes the drivers don’t always see them and the bus goes past.
“I’m not saying bus drivers are purposefully unhelpful - they just aren’t aware of the challenges visually impaired people face.
“Another issue for our service users is when bus routes change. People count the stops so they know when to get off. If routes change or stops are missed, this can confuse someone and they end up getting off at the wrong stop.
“This happened to one of our trustees who is his 80s. It was the first time he felt frightened - luckily he was able to ask for help.
“We want to raise awareness of all these stumbling blocks our service users face and how much we need a new minibus to transport them.”
To read previous stories click here: /galloway-s-appeal-the-importance-of-putting-the-wheels-in-motion-1-8798539
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000 for a new minibus.
To make a donation visit www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; Call: 01772 744148 or Send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.
• Are you holding any fund-raising events to support Galloway’s? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Galloway’s is hosting a sight loss conference for anyone needing support at Leyland Civic Centre on November 23, from 10am until 3pm. To book a place call 01772 744148.