Alliance members ‘Blackpool Transport’ were approached by Highfurlong School in association with MENCAP, to come to the school and talk to students about accessibility on buses.
Highfurlong were involved with the ‘Changemakers’ Project which was run by Mencap. Through this project, seventeen students worked with Mencap over a period of twelve half days, to improve their skills in communication, working with others and problem solving. The project included a focus on using public transport and Blackpool Transport was asked to be involved.
Joanne Martin, a teacher at Highfurlong School said “We are focussing on using public transport both within school hours but also encouraging use at other times for our young people, family members and Personal Assistants. Ultimately, we hope that increased confidence when travelling by public transport will mean increased independence to access the community, education and employment”.
Training managers and trainee drivers from Blackpool Transport spent time with the students, learning of their concerns, experiences and aspirations about travelling on public transport. On one occasion the students pushed the drivers around in wheelchairs so that they could experience things from a wheelchair user’s perspective, for e.g., boarding and alighting the designated mini bus by way of the wheelchair lift. A video of this is available to view on the Highfurlong School page on YouTube. (Link below).
The trainers and trainee drivers also visited the school with a double deck and a single deck wheelchair accessible bus to give the students some practical instruction and the opportunity to try it out for themselves. This not only gave the students confidence that they could use the buses, it also enabled the trainee drivers to see first-hand the difference that they, as drivers can make to enhance people’s lives.
A member of Blackpool Transport said “for me, the day was made perfect when one young man in a wheelchair that I spoke to, having just attempted the boarding procedure said, “I could do this! I can travel by myself. This will give me the chance to get out and go to places.” For me personally, that simple statement sums up better than I ever could, what this is all about”.
A group of students visited Blackpool Transport’s new tram depot at Starr Gate, South Shore Blackpool on the 16th May. They learned about and experienced the new fully accessible trams and tramway.
Blackpool Transport has said of the partnership with students from Highfurlong School “What was particularly interesting for us is that their expectations of what they expect from us entirely reflected our own aspirations in providing a user friendly service for our whole community”.
This has developed into a mutually successful partnership which continues to provide understanding and awareness about the experience of travel for disabled people – for both the students and staff at Blackpool Transport.