Eyes and Independence
As a driver, have you ever considered when turning a corner that there could be someone walking along the road on their right hand side which is your left turning area, and the person could have a vision impairment? Where they live may require them walking first to get to their bus stop in a rural area as there are not always buses going down a local road during the day if it’s not a ‘school bus’. So therefore, those who don’t drive a car whether it’s due to their limitations with their vision, or their lack of money to maintain the cost of a car and insurance, there are people who need to get on public transport and the bus stop is a distance away from home.
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. A person with a vision impairment may have a Taxi Subsidy Scheme (TSS card) for travelling in a taxi? Not only do people with a vision impairment have this option. People with other disabilities may also be eligible.
Since NDIS has rolled out in Australia, participants are also entitled to access transport funds and there are 3 levels – dependent on the purpose and regularity of their travel needs, and especially when the hours that a person may want to travel don’t match up with public transport options, these funds can support the person to continue to meet their needs and goals.
Kerri Weaver is a passionate and caring service provider. She loves sharing her knowledge and skills to supporting those with vision impairment and additional disabilities. Kerri has worked in the field of disability for over 30 years. Her experience includes working in Tonga with a specialist team on multiple occasions.
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