A Brighton and Hove Buses employee, who looks after accessibility, has been awarded a national Everywoman award for services to customers.
Victoria Garcia was honoured at a ceremony at the Marriot Hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, at the Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards – set up to recognise inspirational female role models.
Ms Garcia, who has worked for Brighton and Hove Buses for eight years said: “I have the best job in the world with the best bosses and I’m just doing what I love. So to then receive such a prestigious award for doing something I love is nothing short of striking gold.
“Really this is our MD Martin Harris’ accolade. The great work I’ve had the privilege of doing has been down to his desire to make bus travel easy and convenient for everyone. He’s given me the long rope to go out there and really engage with communities so we can develop the sort of bus service that our customers want and ensure our buses are accessible for all.”
Martin Harris, Brighton and Hove Buses managing director said: “We’re not just here to provide a very good bus service but to add value to the community – of which we’re an essential part – by supporting its economic, environmental and social objectives.
“Victoria’s work has influenced and shaped not just our understanding of these communities but our role and responsibilities within it. Victoria absolutely deserves this award. She’s such a credit to the company and has earned this through sheer hard work.”
Among her achievements, Ms Garcia, has overseen a range of accessibility initiatives, including the award-winning Helping Hand scheme, which she co-created with community groups as a non-branded, discreet card that advises drivers of any extra assistance a passenger might need.
The company also offers individuals a travel buddy scheme and depot tours and groups ‘drama on the bus’ (in partnership with Grace Eyre), role-playing activity to help adults with learning disabilities gain confidence on the bus.
All drivers are trained in empathy skills: to treat passengers the same as they would their own family.
In the first initiative of its kind in the UK, Brighton and Hove Buses has trained employees to train others in My Guide techniques that give them a practical understanding of accessibility issues such as experiencing boarding a bus on a wheelchair or wearing RNIB glasses. And a third of all employees have taken up the opportunity offered to become a ‘Dementia Friend’.
Ms Garcia has also worked directly with bus manufacturers to replace a fixed pole with a pull-down version for the wheelchair area of all buses after users said it obstructed their access.
She has also been 'instrumental' in leading the company to become the first bus operator to trial improved hearing ‘loops’ for hearing aid users on board buses, the company said.
And under Ms Garcia's watch, one hundred per cent of all Brighton and Hove Buses have audio-visual announcements and are low-floor wheelchair-accessible.