Recently, Guide Dogs challenged the Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Margaret Tolerton to put herself in the shoes of the blind and partially sighted people of Lisburn, negotiating the City Centre in a blindfold with the assistance of guide dog Vanya.
The challenge was part of Guide Dogs’ Street Clutter campaign which aims to highlight barriers to independent mobility that the visually impaired community face and calls for steps to be taken to make the City Centre more accessible for all.
Having a clear pathway is crucial for many blind and partially sighted pedestrians who wish to navigate along their high street independently.
Street clutter such as A-Boards, bicycle racks and inappropriately placed static council bins can cause obstructions which can hamper a person’s progress along a high street. Falling over items of street clutter is not only painful collisions but can be a shock to a blind or partially sighted person and could affect that person’s confidence to use these streets and shopping areas.
Given that research has already shown that thousands of blind and partially sighted people lack the confidence to leave home independently this is very concerning.
Street clutter can also prevent people with mobility impairments such as wheelchair users and other vulnerable pedestrians from using the pavements with confidence.
Fiona Brown, Guide Dogs NI Manager said: “At Guide Dogs we are committed to ensuring freedom of movement for all blind and partially sighted people. But the reality is that they have to overcome extraordinary challenges every day to do the things that the rest of us take for granted. We are delighted that the Mayor has put herself in the shoes of the visually impaired community to experience the many obstacles to independent mobility they face.”
Lisburn Mayor, Councillor Margaret Tolerton added: “Lisburn Council strives to ensure that our streets are open and inclusive environments for all and we welcome this opportunity to work with Guide Dogs and their partners to increase understanding of the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
“As one of the Council’s Disability Champions I was very keen to take part in the blindfold walk around Lisburn, which gave me a small insight into the challenges blind and partially sighted people face.”.