Love it or hate it, public transport is an everyday feature for many Kiwis who are blind or have low vision. This is Vicki’s story about her journey to conquering public transport.

Experiencing a change in vision is hard enough, however it was made all the more difficult for Aucklander Vicki, who also had to learn a new way of getting around.

As a new client of the Blind Foundation, Vicki’s driver licence was revoked a week before last Christmas. Before then, her main mode of transport was driving.

“When you are used to using a car, it’s quite frightening to move to public transport—there is so much to learn and it is quite an overwhelming experience.”

Luckily her cousin, a seasoned public transport user, came to visit and gave her an intensive crash course in Auckland’s public transport system. He showed her how to use the Auckland Transport “Hop card” to pay for a fare, how to use the Auckland Transport app to find out when the next bus or train is coming, and how to plan her journey.

“Why didn’t I use it before?”

Now that she has learned the ropes, she wishes she made the switch to public transport much sooner.

“It’s a huge learning curve. I encourage anyone who still has a driver licence to start learning how to use public transport now, so that if your vision deteriorates to the point where you can’t drive then it isn’t such a shock.

“Also it’s an eco-friendly option, and I am often on the train or the bus looking at all the people stuck in traffic wondering why they aren’t on here with me.”

She says one of the best things she did was obtain a Total Mobility card through the Blind Foundation, which gives her a 50 percent discount on taxi fares. It would also give her a discount on public transport, but she qualifies for a Gold Card, which gives her free fares.

“Personally I would never have thought of joining the Blind Foundation because I am low vision, not blind, but the Total Mobility card has opened up a lot of doors for me.”

She lives in Titirangi, a suburb located in the forest close to Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, and mixes taxis with public transport for safety and convenience.

“I don’t like catching public transport at night and sometimes the buses and the trains don’t connect up that well, so it’s good to have the taxi as an affordable option too.”

This story first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of our Outlook magazine.