Blind man in protest

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A blind man is organising a demonstration later this month in protest at the way he has been treated by staff at Aberdeen Bus Station.

Duncan Ross, 24, of Tarland, claims staff at the Union Square station have been unhelpful and even offensive to him when he asked for advice.

He is calling on disabled people facing similar problems to gather at the station for the demonstration at 10.30am on Saturday, October 29.

Mr Ross, who attended the Edinburgh School for the Blind, told the Piper some of the problems he has encountered.

“With Aberdeen’s new bus station came a new way of travelling, or so one would think,” he said. “For me, a young blind person, I hoped this would give me a new lease of independence and enjoyment when travelling to and from the main transit hub for the North-east.

“It’s sometimes difficult for people to understand that for me, and others like me, travelling around by bus is more than simply getting on and off at the right place and at the right time.”

Mr Ross helps out on the family’s Craskins Farm, and travels to Aberdeen to catch up with friends and enjoy tandem cycling sessions.

Modern electronic display screens, showing bus times, are one of the challenges that face Mr Ross because he is unable to access them.

“Poorly-lit bus stances also pose a problem especially with the minefield of dustbins, support columns and safety barriers that surround the station,” he said. “At night, Aberdeen bus station turns into a place of gloom and disorientation, thus numbing my other senses.

“Knowing my way around the station is one thing; being able to use it safely and efficiently is quite another. I rely heavily on assistance from the station staff and concourse marshals, but I’m sad to say, this assistance falls far short of my expectations.

“Indeed, I have had several near misses after failing to be collected for my last bus home and by living in Tarland, this is a big issue for me.”

Mr Ross claims to have been a victim of verbal abuse more than once by members of the station staff, including a few weeks ago when he alleges he was sworn at while asking for help at the advice booth.

Mr Ross added: “It makes me wonder how many other visually-impaired people, and others with disabilities, are struggling needlessly with similar concerns and perhaps, most importantly, why these issues weren’t addressed more fully during the new station’s construction phase?”

The Tarland man regularly travels by train to Edinburgh and Glasgow to attend Royal Institute for the Blind events.

“I can honestly say Aberdeen has much to learn from them,” Mr Ross said. “Audible announcements of arrivals and departures, dedicated staff for assisting disabled people and a well-lit, easily navigable environment with easily accessible taxi ranks make travelling a breeze and far less stressful than in Aberdeen.”

Andrew Jarvis, Stagecoach Bluebird’s managing director, said: “We have been in discussions with Mr Ross previously and following the concerns he raised, we have been working with the management team at Union Square, as well as further training and development with our own staff at the site to ensure the correct level of support is provided to disabled customers at Aberdeen Bus Station.

“In addition, we have been working with North East Sensory Services and investigating the possible options to include audio announcements at the site, though funding for this development is limited, given it was not included in the original building plans. “It is disappointing that Mr Ross feels he has experienced such poor customer service from our staff, however we welcome feedback such as this and we are committed to making improvements where possible and we will be in touch with Mr Ross directly to discuss the issues he has raised further.” Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside councillor Peter Argyle praised Mr Ross for his campaign.

“Duncan Ross is campaigning with great determination to bring these important issues to public attention,” he said. “Those of us who are fortunate enough not to be visually-impaired sometimes fail to understand fully how relatively small changes can add greatly to the quality of life of those for who are visually impaired.

“I have raised these issues on Duncan’s behalf with Stagecoach who have responded but sadly he is still experiencing serious challenges in Aberdeen.”

Mr Ross can be contacted at craskins10@googlemail.com or 07760 125836.