Tips for using public transport with a vision impairment

If you live with vision impairment, getting around is more difficult and can be a daunting prospect. But with some preparation and planning, travelling on public transport needn’t be.

Your ability to move confidently and safely in and around the community will empower you for the rest of your life. Whether that be attending TAFE, university, going to work, getting to the shops or catching up with friends, you’ll end up relying on public transport a great deal.

The back of a young man sitting at the rear of the train. The train is fairly full with other passengers.

Your parents may not always be available to drive you wherever you need to go, so you need to know how you will get to where you need to be.

Feeling concerned or apprehensive is normal. With the right training and plenty of regular practice you can, and will, successfully make many journeys using public transport independently.

Free public transport travel in Perth

People living with vision impairment are entitled to travel free on public transport in Perth. Contact us to request your free Vision Impairment Travel pass.

When learning to use public transport, here are some factors you may need to take into consideration:

1. Be aware of other commuters

Other commuters often move at speed throughout train stations. Walking with or against a stream of commuters is not an easy task. Be on the alert, listening to footsteps, conversations, the rustling of bags. These audible clues will assist you to move through the crowd, often at speed yourself.

2. Listen for background noise

Be prepared to negotiate with background noise. Noises from the overhead PA announcements, trains or buses arriving or departing and general background noise can often hide essential audible landmarks, such as the escalator you are looking for.

3. Physical and tactile indicators

Along with audible clues, physical and tactile indicators are a great prompt. Tactile tiles at ground level, the texture of the ground surface, the slope of the floor, lifts, escalators and edges of platforms, all offer information about your surroundings and whereabouts.

4. Finding doors and seating

Finding the door on the train or bus under pressure can also be difficult, as you only have a short space of time in which to locate the door and get on board. Your next task is to find a seat. Are there any seats available? Where are those empty seats? Where is the priority seating?

A good tip is to be methodical when searching for an empty seat, so that you maintain your orientation to the door, remember you’re going to want to use that door to get off at some point! For example, when you enter the train, search the seating immediately on your left. If it is not vacant, continue working your way down the carriage and keeping count of how many seats you pass until you find a vacant one. That way you’ll know exactly how to return to the door.

5. How to catch the right bus or train

It can be difficult to determine bus numbers, and which bus is the right bus. How will you know if your bus has pulled up? For trains, which trains are express trains? Will you be able to get off at your station? There are a variety of strategies and resources that can be used, depending on the situation. It may be as complex as using a smartphone app such as Transperth Assist (link opens in new window) to track live transport updates. Or it could be as simple as stepping up on to a bus and checking with the driver to ensure it is the bus you want.

6. Dealing with the unexpected

The train has just pulled up at a platform, and it’s not the platform that you usually disembark. How would you deal with this type of unexpected situation? What if you have missed your stop? How will you successfully navigate your way back, or seek assistance? These unexpected situations can be stressful, but it’s important to try to keep your cool and stay calm. There is no problem that cannot be solved!

7. Transport tools

Perth Busport in the centre of the cityAre you aware of the complete set of transport tools available to you? Make sure your mobility and white cane skills are up to scratch. We can empower you to discover the tools available, learn how to use the right tool in the right situation, and how to access support from Transperth.

The key is good solid training at the right age, starting with small, manageable journeys, and plenty of opportunities to practice. VisAbility is here to walk this journey with you.

Speak to your friendly Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist about when might be a good time for you to start on your exciting public transport journey!

How to get support

Please complete the form below to make an initial enquiry about the low vision services and support we can provide.

Our Client Experience Team will contact you to discuss your individual needs both now and into the future.

If you are a provider and wish to refer a client, please use our low vision medical certificate (online referral form) to make your referral.

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