Using public transport to get around our local community, and beyond, is something that most of us take for granted but for people with disability this important service can be difficult to navigate.
The flow on effect means people with disability can miss out on the social connection and sense of independence that comes from being out and about.
APM Communities team members Adam Johnson and Shauna Van Steensel were inspired to develop an event which would address these obstacles while highlighting the accessibility of the bus network in Bunbury, regional Western Australia.
“Public transport is available in Bunbury but can be a mystifying or scary prospect for some people, “said Adam.
He and Shauna decided to hold a public transport open day which would help educate people with disability about the bus transport system based on similar work being done by APM Communities in Darwin.
“The idea came from similar work being done in Darwin called ‘Try before you ride’.
The intent was to give people with disability the opportunity to learn about planning a journey, using Smartriders, and hailing the bus, “Adam said.
APM partnered with TransBunbury’s Jayson McKay who agreed to put on a bus with driver for the day, so that participants could experience catching a bus first-hand.
The bus tours ran on the hour between 10am and 1pm, on Monday 23 November.
The event was promoted to local education support schools, service providers, and to the public through social media.
Adam said around 50 people attended the event, including people with disabilities, parents, carers and support workers.
People of all ages attended, and their types of disability included autism, intellectual disability, physical disability and vision impairment.
Jayson informed event attendees about bus stand numbers, timetables, tapping on and off with the Smartrider card, and hailing the bus.
“Everyone enjoyed the bus tour, while Jayson from TransBunbury explained how to stop the bus to get off at a stop, and how to hail the bus.
He also explained that passengers could ask the driver in advance to make a particular stop”, Adam said.
He said Kevin, the bus driver, had previously worked as a support worker and was passionate about people with disability developing their independence.
He said one of the important outcomes from the day was connecting people with disability with the public transport authority.
“People with disability are safer in their communities when they are known to others. Being known as a ‘real person’ also demystifies disability.”
APM Communities are working with the Transport Authority to hold similar open days in Busselton and Albany next year.
During the event Adam discovered that some parents were scared about not being able to track their son or daughter in case they caught the wrong bus or got off at the wrong stop.
He shared with them about the free Life360 app that allows parents to track their loved ones in real time using mobile phones.
Adam said the team at APM Communities are also exploring more ways to improve access to public transport for people with disability.
“APM is developing an app that links people with disability wanting to journey on Perth’s train system, with a travel buddy – typically a TAFE or uni student.” he said.
As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.