By Daniel Taverne,
The American Chronicle.
Saturday, August 05, 2006.
For most people, traveling across the country on Greyhound busses is not all that difficult. However, for the visually impaired, situations that should be a breeze can sometimes become confusing and downright frightening. That said, I am visually impaired and I recently traveled by bus from Louisiana to New York and back, so I thought it would be great to document my experiences, letting visually impaired people everywhere know what to expect, as well as offer helpful advice to consider when going Greyhound.
As you might expect, bus stations can cause more anxiety than any other portion of a bus trip. In my case, I was taken by surprise at how uneasy I felt arriving at some of the larger ones along the way. Upon entering them, sensing their size, I simply froze, unsure of how I would find the bathrooms or the ticket counters, not to mention cafeterias and those all important departing gate numbers.
On those few occasions when I couldn't find an information booth or a passing Greyhound employee, I reluctantly ask passing strangers for needed information. Unfortunately, the information I received wasn't always correct. That said, for safety sake it's preferable to make inquiries to Greyhound personnel rather than strangers, but because some of the bus terminals are so large, and because you may be pressed for time, you might not always have a choice.
If you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to ask whom ever is standing near you to direct you to the nearest information booth or ticket counter where needed information will be most accurate.
It should be noted that to less confident visually impaired passengers, approaching strangers might be completely out of the question. People falling into this category could very well miss out on opportunities to utilize dining facilities, restrooms, or worse, they might miss their departing bus.
Another point worth mentioning is even though I was walking around with a short red and white cane, I wasn't always recognized as being visually impaired. That said, on more than one occasion I had to ask food venders at bus station cafeterias for the price of one thing or another only for them to impatiently point at the large wall menu while growling, "Can't you read?!" Each time I had to awkwardly explain my visual situation embarrassing the employee as well as myself.
Another issue I discovered is the restrooms are sometimes difficult to find. That said, once they are found, it's not always easy for me to distinguish which bathroom is for men. Most of the time the bathrooms are side by side, and unless I see someone come out of one I have to choose one to walk toward till I get close enough to see the picture of the lady in the skirt or the dude standing there on the blue plaques which I cant make out till I am only about one foot away. It is my ultimate fear to accidentally walk into the wrong bathroom, it is also a fear of mine that I will unknowingly approach the female bathroom only to be accosted by someone thinking I intended to continue and go inside.
For the most part, riding the bus is uneventful since all busses have similar designs and there is no question where the lavatory is. I did experience a situation though that I think deserves some attention:
I could be wrong, but aren't the front seats of each bus reserved for handicapped people who may need the assistance of the bus driver? That's what I thought, but I left my things where I was sitting in the front seat at a terminal one afternoon only to return to the bus finding my things were gone!
At first, I was frightened because I thought I was robbed. Fortunately, after a few moments a few passengers, observing my reaction, helped me find my things which were placed 4 seats back. I soon learned what had occurred when another bus driver got on the bus and sat in the seat where my things were.
Sure I realize being a bus driver should have its perks, but displacing a handicapped person from his/her seat and handling the person's belongings without their knowledge or permission seems to be disrespectful and unprofessional to me. To be fair though, I did observe a bus driver on another occasion respectfully sit in the back of the bus with the rest of the passengers when he had to ride.
My advice to the visually impaired here is to beware of this practice, and don't count on this front seat privilege applying to you since you may be displaced by any Greyhound employee at their discretion.
I have a few suggestions that may help visually impaired passengers: First of all, if there are any visually impaired passengers on the bus, when arriving at each station, it would be helpful for the bus driver to quickly describe the lay out of the terminal. Since this is not a current practice of Greyhound, and if you are allowed to sit in one of the front rows, you could quickly ask the driver some simple questions about the next station. For instance, you could ask, "When I walk through the doors at the next station, which way to the information booth?"
Another suggestion is to place telephones beside terminal entrances where visually impaired people could access information related to the terminal and bus schedules. A simple repeated recorded message indicating the layout of the bus station could go a long way in making the visually impaired feel more confident and even more independent.
Additionally, when blind or visually impaired passengers pick up their tickets, Greyhound might consider offering identifying stamps or tags of some sort indicating the passenger's visual impairment to all Greyhound terminal employees.
Fortunately, visually impaired passengers don't have to wait for Greyhound to come up with a policy that identifies them to all their employees. That said, prior to making the trip, the visually impaired traveler could make a tag of his/her own. Simply laminate a piece of paper reading, "Visually Impaired" in large block print, then attach it to clothing by safety pin when traveling. Doing so could go a long way toward avoiding some of the difficulties I experienced.
All things considered, my trip was a huge success. I met all my connections, kept track of my luggage and found things to eat and drink along the way. To that end, if you're visually impaired, I firmly believe that although your courage, patience and perseverance might be tested, you too can successfully travel Greyhound.
End of article.
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