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Blind teen mad at buses

Catching the bus is proving more difficult than it should for a blind Christchurch teenager.

Ricky Ball, 18, said over the last two years he had been missed at least four times by a bus he wanted to catch.

“I was at the bus stop last Saturday with another completely blind student, I put my hand out to stop the bus driver, he slowed down and then kept driving.”

Ricky Ball, 18, is blind and is frustrated because bus drivers do not stop for him.

Ball and the student were both using a cane at the time of the incident and wanted to catch the number 60 bus to Barrington Mall, the only bus that passes the Hoon Hay stop where they were waiting.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) public transport manager David Stenhouse said bus drivers on single routes have to stop for the visually impaired regardless of whether the person signals the driver.

“On multiple routes, it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that they stop for anyone with a guide or service dog, white cane, or for someone displaying the bus route number that is the same as the route the driver is travelling.”

Ball lost his sight when he was 9 due to a brain tumour undetected by doctors. He uses the bus regularly.

Blind Foundation practice adviser Carina Duke said the incidents Ricky Ball had experienced were not isolated and the organisation had received complaints from clients about buses not stopping.

“Some of our clients find there are still barriers to accessing public transport.” Duke said.

Ball said he rang bus operator Metro straight away when he was missed by the bus on Saturday. He was told the bus was already on Sparks Rd so he would have to wait for the next one.

Ball’s mother, Celia Ball, made a complaint to Metro which has been received and Stenhouse said a response is expected by Monday.

In another incident, Ricky Ball asked a driver to tell him when the bus was at The Palms so he could get off, the bus driver announced that location at Riccarton Mall.

Stenhouse said if drivers are made aware of the need, they should assist the visually impaired with announcing the required destination.

Celia Ball said she had complained to Metro numerous times and was frustrated. ECan did not have a record of all her complaints.

“It’s really disheartening because as a mum of a blind child there is extra work involved in teaching him locations and it scares me. I hate him catching buses but he has to do it, he’s becoming independent.”

On another occasion Ricky Ball’s cane was jammed in a bus door when the driver was in a hurry to get away.

She said that was the only time she had received an apology or a recognition of her complaint from Metro.

Stenhouse stressed ECan had made an effort to work with the blind community while designing the new Bus Interchange.

“We have push button audio announcements and braille on our plinths in the new Bus Interchange, we have large size screens and also have tactile pavers leading to various spots within the Bus Interchange.” he said.

By Georgina Campbell and Ryan Thomas for The Press