FIRST Bus drivers in Stirling took a course on sensory awareness with Forth Valley Sensory Centre.

The company is taking the right route towards improving services for people with sensory loss in the local area by increasing the level of understanding amongst drivers and sharing top tips to make journeys smoother.

Training took place at Stirling Bus Station with an information desk set up in the neighbouring transport hub.

Drivers were taken along to board buses using special ‘sim specs’ and took the chance to speak to a number of deaf people who use Forth Valley Sensory Centre.

Operations Manager Jim Burns said: “We know that a lot of our customers have sensory loss due to age related conditions.

"We also know that public transport can be a vital link for people who cannot see to drive a vehicle themselves. We help people stay active and independent.

“That is something we take very seriously so I was delighted when the sensory centre team said they’d be able to give us a few pointers on the best way to assist customers with a sensory loss.

"My team and I certainly took a lot from the day and a huge thanks to the centre ssers who came along to give us the benefit of their experience.”

Centre staff were supported by four volunteers, Ann and Stuart from the deaf community and Kyle and Gordon who both have sight loss.

All were able to provide first-hand experience of the difficulties in using public transport and a number of recommendations, such as keeping doors closed until a blind passenger is ready to disembark, are being implemented immediately.

Volunteer Kyle Summerville said: “Public transport is my main way of getting around. I don’t have a Guide Dog or dark glasses so drivers don’t always notice I am blind.

"Helping to educate people about the difficulties people with sight loss or any disability face every day is important because the more people that understand the more likely they are to make seats available or have patience when someone needs extra time to board.”

Forth Valley Sensory Centre supports people with sight and hearing loss across Forth Valley.

In Stirling there is a Blind and Partially Sighted group which meets every second Tuesday of each month at the Mayfield Centre and a new Knit and Natter Group for people with sight or hearing problems who loving knitting and a gossip.

This group meets fortnightly at The Engine Shed, easily accessed from the bus station.