Workers given visual awareness training

Visual Awareness Training is being delivered to the Public Realm workers in Lisburn this week after a blind woman walked through a construction site in the city.

A spokesperson for Lisburn in Focus/RNIB NI said Visual Awareness Training is being delivered to the contractor’s staff, “so hopefully the men who are working on the streets will be more aware of the additional needs that blind and partially sighted street users have and be comfortable guiding them and describing the route they may need to take to get to their desired destination.”

The move comes after Joanna Toner, who lives near Longstone with her husband Barry, who is also blind, said the works had left her feeling confused and her confidence and feeling of independence badly shaken.

Joanna said: “I have been confused by the workmen taking away tactile paving and I have been hampered in my attempts to avoid the worst of the work by the Water Service suddenly starting to dig up another section of the town.

“I am at my wit’s end. My confidence and independence have been badly shaken.”

Feeling frustrated Joanna asked Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson to go for a walk with her around the city to see for himself the difficulties facing blind and partially sighted people.

Speaking after his walkabout with Joanna Mr Donaldson said that in the “short term more needs to be done to facilitate people to move more freely through the pedestrian area without facing major obstacles.”

Mr Donaldson said it was unacceptable that Joanna “wandered into a construction site” saying she could have been seriously injured. He said that he is arranging for Joanna and her colleagues to meet with the City Centre Management and Council to see what steps can be taken in the short term and to discuss “adequate provision in terms of the environmental scheme for Bow Street and Market Square including footpaths and crossing points.”

A spokesperson for Lisburn City Centre Management commented: “LCCM continue to host regular meetings were local retailers and organisations such as Lisburn in Focus have the opportunity to put their concerns to the public realm contractors, the project management and the Council. At the most recent meeting the contractor agreed that all the workers on the scheme would take part in special visual awareness training organised by Lisburn in Focus and we hope to see this happening within the coming days.”