Recently, on my travels as an Orientation & Mobility specialist I was asked about some challenging scenarios for someone who travels with a long white cane, limited vision, and needs to catch a bus on the Bruce Hwy in North Queensland. For those who are not Queenslanders, “the 1,700 kilometre Bruce Highway is Queensland's major north-south road corridor, connecting coastal population centres from Brisbane to Cairns and supporting around 58 per cent of Queensland's population”
Like all roads there are busy spots and quiet spots that vary throughout the day. The bus services are extremely limited and this service only ran every 2 hours. The challenge presented included the fact that the area of the highway was in a 100km zone, despite there being a bus stop and before the person got to the highway, the road travelled on foot was in an 80km zone.
As an Orientation & Mobility specialist, I don’t feel confident that a person with a vision impairment travelling along those roads is safe considering the logistics of rural country roads and the speed zones currently in place. Our role is to ensure safety and encourage independence in a person and although that person may be proud of their ‘travelling skills and abilities’, opting for alternatives in individual scenarios such as these are not to be seen as a ‘cop out’ The person is making a safe and sensible decision to travel and be protected in a vehicle such as a taxi. And sometimes accessing such transport provides more independence for the person – they can choose the time of pickup and return and continue to be out there in the community, enjoying others’ company, engage in regular exercise, shop for essentials and more, knowing that there are safer options open to all.
Of course, there are always costs involved with accessing transport. Do you know that a person with a vision impairment may be eligible for financial assistance when travelling in a taxi? There is other criteria for possible eligibility aside from a vision impairment.
The Taxi Subsidy Scheme (TSS) subsidises taxi travel—half of the total fare, up to a maximum of $25 per trip—for people with severe disabilities. The Queensland link is as follows: www.qld.gov.au/disability/out-and-about/taxi-subsidy
The process in applying for the assistance can vary from state to state in Australia.