[bactttoma] Ben Matthews. A sighted journalists observations of audio announcements on Victorian Public Transport services.

  • From: steven taylor <steven_taylor10@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: bactttoma@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 3 May 2010 10:34:58 +1000

Ben Matthews.

This report is damning and the whole Victorian industry should hang themselves 
in the public square as far as I am concerned.

I make no bones about it, I am sighted, I don't need audio announcements, my 
sight is good enough to read printed boards, but I would hate to lose my sight 
and have to rely on audio announcements should I say the lack of audio 
announcements, and not to mention, the lack of clarity with these so called 
live announcements.

Hang yourselves in the public square and be prepared to be flogged Victorian 
Public Transport.

To successfully undertake this research, I bought a blind fold because I wanted 
to know what it would be like to have to totally rely on audio announcements.

I took no assistant with me which I usually do on this type of research, again, 
I wanted to know what assistance I would get as a blind person.

I should mention I peeped a few times that is a habit of somebody who knows 
they have sight at the end of the day.

I didn't use the white cane given by Vision Australia, I don't like pretending 
I am blind, so adopted a crude design of my own, making it fairly obvious I 
wasn't really blind, because the last thing I needed was some sticky nose 
member of the public having me arrested and Vision Australia getting bad press.

So prepared to take a v-line journey and took a train to Bendigo from Southern 

All was going well, until the live audio announcement which was in such poor 
english telling me of a last minute switch of platforms, a common thing for 
v-line to do these days.

Ok peeped enough to get there, wasn't prepared to miss the train, I needed it 
for the research and I had deadlines to meet even though I am a freelance 

Eventually got on the train, got an audio announcement from the train conductor 
when it departed to tell us where this train was going and what stations it 
would stop.

That was the first and last audio announcement we got, nothing for the rest of 
the trip.

Didn't even see the conductor or hear her checking tickets so if I was getting 
off in Woodend, would have had no idea where it was being blind, but blind 
people tell me they can count stops and count the times they hear doors opening.

Well fair enough, but what they didn't tell anyone was the train stopped at 
Footscray and yes I admit it, I peeped but imagine if I couldn't and I was 

I would have lost count for sure I think.

Train eventually arrived in Bendigo again no audio to tell me this, I figured 
this out thanks to another passengers help, but god only knows what would have 
happened if I was permanently blind and the carriage was empty.

So took the trip back to Melbourne, same conductor, same lack of audio 
announcements, but this time the tickets were checked.

I decided to put her to the test.

We were stopping in Castlemain, so asked her if she would come and assist me 
when we got there.

She did not turn up for assistance and at Woodend she apologised and assured me 
she would have me back on the next train, I told her to forget it.

But to bad if I really wanted that stop and to bad if my brother was expecting 
me to be there to drive me to his house, what a joke.

Got back to Southern Cross and decided to go and complain.

The gentlemen couldn't understand english I complained too but we eventually 
sorted it out that he would report this complaint to his supervisor.

Time to see if he did and no he never went to his supervisor.

So waited until the end of his shift and followed him to a car.

Hey mate, you didn't tell the supervisor about my complaint buddy.

No sorry, I forgot, I am going home now and how blind are you?

I told him this wasn't about how blind I was or how blind I am, or how blind I 
may be tonight or tomorrow, this was and is about you not doing your job.

He got aggressive and told me to get lost, not exactly those words, the english 
improved all of a sudden and threatened to call the police.

Not one for backing down, I got out my mobile phone and showed it to him and 
said, here my pleasure, call them.

He got in his car and took off like the wind and I had to get out of the way or 
risk injury or being killed.

Time to find his supervisor.

V-line were not exactly helpful with this matter, but eventually tracked down 
this supervisor and handed him my written complaint.

All I got is an apology, no assurances anything would or could be done, not 
good enough but he told me to go to station manager office.

You bet I did too.

At the station managers office, had to wait 25 minutes for a woman who got very 
irate the moment she saw me.

Oh it's you Matthews is it?

It's me Mr. Matthews or Ben is nicer thanks I said and now we need a serious 

She listened, took notes, took a copy of my complaint and assured me she would 
speak to this conductor and the other 2 people as well and I assured her, I 
would be around snooping to insure it happened and action was taken.

She got the message and action was taken the next morning which I was allowed 
to see without snooping.

After the action which was that this conductor was reprimanded the 2 gentlemen 
were spoken too but nothing happened to them, time for me to catch a metro 
train and experience the next part of my research.

So took a train to Frankston I have a favourite fish and chip shop I like there 
for lunch.

The train was packed in all carriages, but I eventually found a seat in the 
last carriage with I admit a lot of peeping.

All the audio announcements were working well until we got to Caulfield.

After that, they were spasmodic which is the only fair description I can give.

The announcements when they did happen were clear enough however and we were 
told the train was terminating when we got to Frankston.

Went and had my lunch and took a walk around and headed back to the train 

Got the train and low and behold, absolutely no audio announcements at all.

Thinking that it was only for this carriage I was in, went and observed other 
carriages, but nothing happened with audio announcements, it was one of the 
newer trains.

At Flinders Street, decided to speak to the train driver to see what happened 
to be told he forgot altogether and wasn't sure it was working anyway.

I know a fair bit about train driving so asked him where this train was now 
going to be told it was a Packingham service.

I asked if I could accompany him in the cabin he obliged even though this is 
against regulations.

We took off and I had decided I was getting off at Richmond, we were going 
through the loop first.

I discovered the button where I thought it would be and pressed it just before 
Southern Cross.

Sure enough it worked and the announcement was even heard in the cabin.

I got off at Richmond and next morning headed in to the office where you 
complain about train drivers.

The man was genuinely disturbed and said it wasn't good enough.  He wasn't 
happy to hear I broke regulations, but when I told him why and what I did and 
what I said to the driver he was actually pleased.

Well, the action was this driver has been terminated but I found out this was 
because of a whole lot of stuff and not just because of what I did or didn't do.

Time for a tram ride today.

Have trams ever heard of audio announcements?

Most of them are fully equipped for it no doubts about that, but if blind 
people get audio announcements on trams, I would like to know which ones and 
when, because I found one tram in all the hundreds on the roads.

And it was an 86 tram I was using to go to an interview in Thornbury with a 
woman having housing commission trouble.

Oh but get this.  As soon as we left Spring Street the announcements stopped 

Just as well there were passengers and I was close to the driver for shouting, 
otherwise, with the blind fold on and without peeping, I would have had no idea 
at all.

The driver was kind enough to announce stop 38 where I was going however.

If you take a bus as a blind person, you can forget audio announcements, they 
don't exist at all.

Now for travellers aid.

An extremely good service no doubts about it and they insisted I stay with them 
till they were sure the train was at its right platform, seems to be the only 
safe solution if you are permanently blind.

As far as Metro trains go, some train stations have no staff, so unless you 
have what is called good orientation and mobility skills, you can forget about 
assistance there is none for some stations.

Worse still, I found at least 17 train stations with no tactile ground 
indicators at all not even on the platform edge, go figure.

Not to mention, of all the stations I searched, only 3 working public telephone 
boxes, and only one unstaffed station with any assistance.

If you are permanently blind, insure you have a mobile phone for sure.

Finally, time for a taxi.

The whole industry is a joke here even for sighted people and god only knows 
how blind people don't get ripped off, and not to mention drivers who look 
absolutely nothing like their drivers identification photographs.

The final test.

Don't attempt this without permission from a dog guide service provider.

Took a pr dog in a harness to a taxi rank to wait there for a cab.

Driver pulls up looks around and takes off.

Second car pulls up looks around asks me where I am going and asks me for dog 

I take out dog card, he looks at this, says no I can't take you and drives off.

Third driver pulls up x pommy from England only to happy to accommodate the dog 
guide and I tell him I am taking it back to where I got the dog from.

No worries we go their, but I am trying to resist the feeling of peeping at the 

I resist it and when we get there with little hold up in traffic he tells me 
the fair and it's reasonable so pay the money.

I want to repeat this exercise at another rank so do so.

Get to rank with dog guide and driver pulls up and takes dog but makes no 
secret he's unhappy with taking dog.

I got sick of this so paid him the fair and the tip to get out of there and got 
another cab only to find this driver was a woman even though the identification 
looked like a bloke.

What's going on here?

I am driving for my brother.

No, you aren't any more, we are going to the police station you take me there 
right now.

She complies and I found out since this driver lost his licence.

One more repeat of this exercise.

First time lucky, get a driver happy to take dog, even wants to give me a free 
ride and believe it or not Indian as well.

I'm not going to refuse a free ride and he was as good as his word and didn't 
go down 50 streets either.

So the taxis are a hit and miss affair all round.

How do you blind people do this and every day?

I am sending this report to the newspapers, have contacts in the Age who will 
no doubt publish it even if it is edited.

Hang your heads in shame Victorian Public Transport, you are supposed to care 
for passenger safety, and god only knows how these blind people are not killed 
because of your negligence.

If there is a brave blind person out there, this calls for a test court case, 
something I am happy to help with costs for paying.

Is there a brave blind person out there that will do this and take Vision 
Australia and Blind Citizens Australia down with this action.  I know of one 

Shame on all of them.

Ben Matthews.

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