The blind and visually impaired are demanding to have their say in the national discussion on transport following announcements that Government will have electric buses by year-end.
Vice president of the National United Society of the Blind, Rudyard Welch, has expressed concern that electric vehicles are quiet – too quiet at its low speeds.
“All of us must learn to exist, we know that the cars are here to stay, we welcome them but we want to work with the dealers or anybody who has an electric car so that we will be able to travel on the roads of Barbados safely because we depend on our hearing.
“We have a philosophy that the traffic is our friend and if we can’t hear it, it is no help to us,” Welch said.
Welch noted while Government held a national consultation with transport interest groups, commuters, especially the blind, were not being recognised.
He said he did not have an issue with the increase in bus fare to $3.50, effective from April, 15, but stressed that poor quality service offered to the disabled commuters needed drastic improvement.
Welch told Barbados TODAY: “I use the buses on a daily basis and majority of the time I have to use PSVs because Transport Board does not run the area.
“I have no problem with raising bus fares but I don’t see why I should pay for inefficient and unreliable service because after 7 p.m. I cannot get a PSV.
“Because I am blind doesn’t mean I don’t go out, sometimes 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. I have to go on the road and it is lonesome but I have no other choice because I can’t afford to pay a taxi.”
“When it is 7 p.m. most of the PSVs are off the road and they have a bus fare increase and I am saying they should provide an adequate service.”
The spokesman for the blind community contended that the Transport Board has promised improvements for the members of the blind and visually impaired community, but there have been no such developments.
He revealed that the bus pass issued to the disabled community has not been printed for five years and the term used by the state-owned bus corportation – handicap – was outdated. Welch suggested that the Transport Board provide a five-year renewable card as an alternative.
He went on to argue that as Government imported electric buses, they should make sure that they were accommodating to the disabled community and the elderly.
“There are some ideas we want to put to them. For instance, if you are aboard, the bus tells you where is the next stop, I think that should be done for us [and] I think if you are going to spend that sort of money on the electric bus, let it come fully equipped.
“Also, there should be room for persons with wheelchairs. If you are ordering 20 at least five of them should have seating for two or three wheelchairs.
“The buses should be able to lower so a wheelchair person can roll inside and that can also accommodate elderly people who have mobility challenges getting up in the bus.”