“You don’t need sight to use public transport”

Hello all, my name is Andrew Rose and I’ve lost my sight due to a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Please join me in the series of blogs that I've created with Henshaws where I share my experiences of independent travel to help those living with sight loss.

I came to Image of Andrew in a front of a door, wearing a hat and holding his white cane.Henshaws in 2010 and the team’s skills, expertise and understanding
helped me to learn to live with sight loss when I needed it most. I am now repaying the debt of gratitude in spades as, very proudly, I am now a member of the Board of Trustees providing my own expertise in business and finance.

I have written a series of blogs on how I use public transport. The reason I have created these is to provide education to the wider public and hopefully a little entertainment. Most importantly though I have created them so that other members of the blind and visually impaired community might learn from my experiences…

On the Trams

Making my way from Deansgate train station in Manchester, through the covered walkway over-tapping my stick through human traffic, I head to the tram stop. The odd person still tries to walk into me – mobile phone/head down (for this short stomp I don’t bother getting my white cane out). A blind right turn affords more collision opportunities and causes some sharp swerves. A further fifty yards and I’m on the Deansgate Tram Platform.

There are trams with five different destinations that pass through here. Not a problem. Just because you can’t read the destination on the front of the tram doesn’t mean that you can’t open the doors of every passing one, stick your head inside and listen to the automated voice advising the destination. So if you see some fruit at a tram stop opening the doors of every passing tram, you now know why. Quite often other commuters spot me and ask which tram I’m waiting for and advise me accordingly.

Photo of one of our Trustees, Andrew Rose, waiting at the tram stop.

I catch the Altrincham tram and alight at the third stop, Old Trafford. As I walk down the platform I always make a point of stopping and waving to the driver’s cabin. I can never see them. I wonder if they are aware of that? I can’t recall what started me waving at the cabin, but I think I have reaped the benefits of becoming recognised. There have been times when the tram’s just about to pull off, I’m spotted and they pause for me. Either way they always honk their horn when I’m stood by the track crossings. Also, the pass inspectors rarely ask me these days, and concern themselves more that I’m on the right tram and getting off at the right stop. I then have a five minute walk to get to Henshaws Manchester Resource Centre in Old Trafford.

Gary Cassidy, the Rehabilitation Officer at Henshaws got me started on the trams. I’ve never looked back and have the confidence to travel anywhere on the system, even to places I haven’t been before (as long as there is someone to meet me).

I was in a tram/taxi crash once. We had to get off and I asked for assistance, advising the officers that I was registered blind. If I could get to Old Trafford football ground I knew my way to Henshaws from there and everyone would know where to point me. I asked one of the officers to point me in the right direction and he replied, “You head down this street, and you take that left turn right over there.” I didn’t say anything, but I’ve noted that some people just don’t get it. I think it’s psychological, if I’m not carrying a white cane (rather than tapping hiking stick and advising of my sight loss) I can’t be blind. I did manage to muddle my way to Henshaws eventually, getting lost in a few business parks en route. What should have taken 15 minutes by foot and tram, took me over two hours, but I was pleased with my endeavours.

Tips

  • I would strongly recommend the trams to other VI travellers – you just need some training and a bit of confidence and you’re off on your own.
  • If you’d like support on other types of transport, have a read of the rest of my travel series.
  • If you would like support or guidance on using public transport then get in touch with our Enablement Team on 0161 872 1234.
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Andrew
Andrew Rose has been with Henshaws since 2010 after losing his sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa. He is a member of the Board of Trustees, providing his expertise in business, finance and visual impairment.
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