Riding the Bus in Low Vision

The best advice my O&M teacher gave me? “No surprises.” This means doing recon before riding to determine the safest, most logical route, door to door. Once I know which bus I should be taking, I get out there.

Things that make it easier for me to catch and ride and exit the bus:

  • I watch for the bus using my monocular to read the digital display on the front and sides of the vehicle. I can read the bus shelter sign from across the street in a new area, saving me a fruitless street crossing.
  • As I wait, I hold my white cane prominently, alerting the driver of my visual impairment. I listen for the voice announcement, “This is the No. X Bus to Town Name.” As I prepare to board, I listen for the doors to open and for disembarking riders.
  • If I’m unsure, I verify “Is this the No. X bus to My Stop Name?” with the driver before boarding.
  • I use a bus fare card, reloadable online, instead of fumbling with cash and coins.
  • If I can’t discern an empty seat farther back, I sit up front in the seniors/riders with disabilities section. Some days I need to close my eyes and rest, my vision hazy for one reason or another, or the weather leads to inclement conditions and I feel better exiting up front.
  • As I ride, I locate the stop request lines or buttons, either by recognizing the bus style or by watching and listening to others. I will ask another rider to request my stop for me if I’m unsure or if the alert closest to me is broken.
  • I don’t use my phone or listen to music on the bus. I stay focused on the riders around me and the progress of the bus. I don’t put my bag on the empty seat next to me; I respect shared public spaces. I’m prepared to exit when my corner arrives.
  • I tell the driver thank you if I exit up front. I notice at this point which of the regular bus drivers give me two more seconds to board or pull past the snow drift when letting me off; it’s nice to be able to recognize my favorite drivers and stay visible to less aware ones.

Do you like riding the bus? What makes your ride a success?

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Thank you for your clear and comprehensive guide. I find it very useful. I shall print it off and pass it on. Our poor signage makes some of it difficult and all the more worth passing on to the bus company. I do love getting ideas from other countries.

    1. Bridget: Thanks. If any of my tips make your travels easier, my post is a success. I wish your buses used voice announcements and the transit organization updated signage.

  2. johnmill79 says:

    I love taking the bus. I always try to sit as close to the cord as possible, so I don’t have to try and quickly ask someone to ring the bell for me. Couldn’t do this yesterday, and thus I barely got off at my stop. This is why I wish people would generally leave seats open for people with disabilities or elderly unless the bus is chock full. As it was, only one of those seats was available to me, beside loud talkers. The iPhone has definitely revolutionized my bus experience also, as I can use its GPS to alert me when to ring the bell even when going to a less familiar destination.

    1. I go for seats as close to the cords, too. I find the buses that still just have request strips every three seat rows difficult. That’s great that you can use the GPS to combat the loudtalkers. It’s amazing to me the number of people who discuss any and all details about their lives in the public space of the bus.

      1. johnmill79 says:

        Yeah, on some of the newer buses the cord is over my head and stretched along the windowframe. I like that idea a lot more. Then it doesn’t really matter where I sit. And of course, the automated announcements tend to only speak major stops, at least in my city. I think some cities do better at this, calling every stop. I tell the driver where I wish to disembark as well, but they quite often forget with the crush of entering and exiting passengers and the crazy traffic they must deal with. It’s all fun times!

      2. Great attitude, John. That’s the best thing to carry on the bus.

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