8 March 2021
Bus Users, the Guide Dogs charity, and bus operators across England have come together to provide on-board training for guide dogs during the pandemic.
Recognising that lockdown and reduced services have deprived many guide dog puppies of vital training opportunities on board buses, Bus Users are connecting Guide Dogs with operators across the UK, helping to arrange sessions for the puppies and their trainers in the safety of their depots.
Work has already started with Stagecoach North East and First in South Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South West. Visits are also being arranged along the South Coast and across the Home Counties.
Stagecoach MD, Steve Walker, said: “We know just how vital bus services are to our passengers. We are always willing to help organisations and communities learn how to access our services and make full use of the opportunities that bus travel can provide.”
Blind and partially sighted people are particularly reliant on public transport, Guide Dogs pointed out, so it is critical that their assistance dogs become accustomed to bus travel from an early age.
As well as learning how to board and disembark safely, they need to know when to stop, so their owners can purchase tickets or show passes, and how to guide their owners to a seat.
Dawn Badminton-Capps, Director of Bus Users England, said: “With so many travel restrictions in place, these puppies were missing out on a vital part of their training. Fully trained assistance dogs make it possible for thousands of people to access public transport, ensuring they can lead full and independent lives.”