A local DUP councillor who has been blind since she was 21 has welcomed the installation of new tactile maps in several parks in the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area.
Dr Janet Gray MBE, a former World Disabled Water Ski Champion, described the new ‘Maps for All’ - RNIB-produced touch installations designed to provide information for people with visual impairments - as “excellent” and said she hopes the initiative will be rolled out in other areas across the Province.
In what’s thought to be a first for Northern Ireland, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has installed four ‘Maps for All’ in Wallace Park, Moat Park and Moira Demesne, with a fifth map due to be installed in Castle Gardens later this month.
The ‘Map for All’ is a new product from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and contains both visual and tactile elements ensuring that users can read the map by sight, touch or a combination of both.
Key features of the innovative mapping solutions include a mixture of layers, raised large print, braille lettering, tactile and visual symbols and a variety of colours and textures. This enables blind and partially sighted people to enjoy their surroundings independently.
Welcoming the installation of the new ‘Maps for All’ in her local area, Councillor Gray said: “I think they are excellent. I had a feel of the one in Wallace Park and I thought it was good in that you’re able to trace round the paths and things and get a feel for the overall size and shape of the park.
“I think we are the first council to install these maps and I hope that other councils across Northern Ireland will follow suit.”
Alderman James Tinsley, Chairman of the council’s Leisure and Community Development Committee, commented: “Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council has introduced the Map for All into Wallace Park, Moat Park and Moira Demesne to support access for all within council parks. Each map contains an overview of the layout of the park and facilities available. This hopefully will assist users with a visual impairment understand the layout of the land while visiting.
“As a council we want to ensure that all visitors feel part of the community in which they live and find that their experience visiting our parks is as enjoyable and informative as possible.”
Paula Beattie, Policy and Campaigns Manager with the RNIB in Belfast, added: “Tactile maps and touch installations enhance the experiences that people with sight difficulties have, making their visit more engaging, informative and stimulating, allowing greater independence and inclusion.
“Well done to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council for their vision and leadership in this matter. We look forward to other councils across Northern Ireland following their example.”
For more information about the RNIB’s Map for All initiative log on to www.rnib.org.uk