Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News


25 Aug 2016 by Ben Mansfield

For people with sight loss and other mobility issues, a simple bus journey can seem a daunting challenge - but in Harrogate and Knaresborough, a local bus company is teaming up with a specialist college to make travel easier for all.

The Harrogate Bus Company, operators of the popular 36 Riding: Redefined Leeds-Harrogate-Ripon and 1 Harrogate-Knaresborough-Boroughbridge services, is supporting instructors at Henshaws Specialist College in Harrogate with training in how wheelchair users can safely board its easy access buses, and then manoeuvre into the on-board dedicated wheelchair space.

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Instructors from Henshaws College in Harrogate

At a specially-arranged event, training managers at the bus company’s Starbeck depot also explained how each of its drivers are trained to make sure that when they see a visually impaired person at a bus stop, they take time to talk to them and offer help where necessary.

The Harrogate Bus Company, General Manager Keith Roebuck explained: “There are several different types of wheelchair in use which our easy access buses can accommodate. Henshaws College instructors each took turns to board one of our buses, using an assortment of wheelchair types and wearing glasses to simulate various levels of visual impairment.

“We then used one of our low-floor, easy access buses from the popular route 1 between Harrogate and Knaresborough to re-create real-life scenarios at several bus stops, to give everyone taking part the chance to sample at first hand how the bus can provide safe and accessible transport.

“Both ourselves and the College’s trainers found this exercise very useful – it means that when they return to Henshaws, the trainers can pass on all they’ve seen and learned to people whose disability might otherwise deter them from travelling with us.”

Senior Rehabilitation Officer, Nic Millar from Henshaws said: “Henshaws Disability Support Service is very grateful to the cooperation and assistance of The Harrogate Bus Company in particular their training manager Colleen Wormald, who on many occasions over the past 10 years, has made it possible for Henshaws to use their buses so that people receiving mobility training from us can gain first-hand experience of what it is like to access public buses, but in a safe, controlled environment. This is prior to them putting the skills into practice under our guidance and instruction.”

On this occasion, the attendees from guide dogs were developing their driving skills using a variety of manual and powered wheelchairs as part of a wheelchair mobility course delivered by Henshaws Disability Support Service.

The Harrogate Bus Company’s training manager at Starbeck depot, Colleen Wormald, said lessons learned from the event are also being passed on to its drivers.

Colleen said: “As well as training the Henshaws College instructors, we also train each of our drivers to make sure that they understand how to help a visually impaired passenger from the moment they approach the bus to the end of their journey.

“Our modern buses offer easy access to all passengers, and it’s very important to us to make sure we’re doing all we can to make travel more straightforward and enjoyable for everyone.”