New app enabling wheelchair users to track accessible spaces on buses receives wide praise
National bus operator First Bus has launched a new fast-tracking smartphone app which enables customers to view the number of available wheelchair spaces on their local bus services in real-time.
Available to download for free on the App and Google Play stores, the First Bus App is designed to make journeys using its bus services easier by informing disabled customers of wheelchair space capacity in advance.
Users can type in where and when they want to travel, as well as the bus service number, into the app and a live map will appear tracking where the bus is and the number of wheelchair spaces that are available at any given time.
Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus, said: “We are really proud to have been able to fast-track these most recent app updates to ensure safe, informed travel during these difficult times. Our buses provide an essential service for our customers and we are doing all we can to support them.
“The app update is aligned with our longstanding pledge to improve the bus experience for our disabled passengers.”
According to the company, the development on the new feature sees First Bus become the first UK bus operator to not only allow bus passengers to live track the location of their next bus, but also show its capacity in ‘real-time’.
The innovation has been widely praised by several charities as a means to make public transport more accessible for those with disabilities.
Rob Burley, Director of Campaigns, Care and Support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We’re pleased First Bus has committed to improving its services for wheelchair users. Disabled people use public transport to get to work or school, go shopping, or simply enjoy a day out with friends and family. But unfortunately we know experiences can be mixed because of physical and attitudinal barriers. We hope this new app feature will make it easier for disabled people to plan their journeys, and welcome the pledge made by First Bus to make its network more accessible.”
In recent years, accessibility on buses has been high on the government’s agenda as the Department of Transport launched the ‘It’s Everyone’s Journey’ campaign in November 2019 and called on bus operators to improve disabled people’s experiences when using their services.
Stephen Brookes, Ambassador for Disability Rights UK and Sector Champion for the Minister for Disabled People, commented: “It’s good to see that First Bus are enabling their disabled customers who depend on wheelchairs to use real-time technology to track and view space availability across the country by use of a mobile app. This means that disabled customers will be able to have more confidence in planning a journey. The information, which is based on driver recorded updates is simply expressed, clearly set out and easy to navigate.”
The commendation was echoed by Emma Scott, Operations Manager at Disability Equality Scotland: “We welcome the fast-tracking of the app which will give wheelchair users more confidence to use public transport during these uncertain times. By giving wheelchair users this information in an inclusive and accessible way, it allows them to make decisions about whether to wait or find an alternative route.”
See how the new app works below: