Are you worried about obstacles on pavements?
Blind and partially sighted (BPS) residents in Bristol and Gloucester came together on 15 May at our ‘Are you worried about obstacles on pavements?’ event.
Our joint Sight Loss Council (SLC) forum was held at Cheltenham racecourse. At the event, we explored some of the challenges BPS people face when walking down pavements and navigating the built environment.
Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council member, Yahya Pandor, chaired the event. He stressed how important this issue is to BPS people in his opening remarks.
“If people are worried about going outside on their own because of obstructions on pavements and streets, something must be done. People who are blind and partially sighted have the same rights as everyone else to walk safety around their locality.”
Yahya Pandor, Gloucestershire SLC member
Attendees had the opportunity to share their lived experience with a panel of guest speakers from Avon and Somerset Police, Bristol City Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council.
Delegates sitting at tables during the event
Key topics and speakers
Our first speaker was Heather Lindsey, Traffic Management Supervisor, Traffic Management and Road Safety, at Avon and Somerset Police.
She acknowledged the issues that e-scooters present to BPS people and spoke about the challenges the force has in policing them.
Delegates were invited to share their own personal experiences.
Holly Thomas, Bristol SLC member, said:
“I have lost count of the number of times I have almost been hit by a e-scooter riding on the pavement where they should not be. There are more and more of them, and it feels like no-one can do anything about it.”
Heather urged everyone to report any incident, even if people could not tell what kind of scooter it was.
We were then joined by Michelle Bignell, Licensing Operations and Development Team Leader at Tewkesbury Borough Council. Michelle manages a team of licensing officers across the six district councils in Gloucestershire. Alongside colleague, Phillip Bowen, she shared how local councils can control pavement and street furniture. This includes advertising boards, and tables and chairs outside cafes and restaurants.
Gloucestershire SLC has been working with the team to raise awareness on issues related to tables and chairs being on pavements. This has included inviting councillors and officers to walk the streets of Gloucestershire using special glasses which simulate eye conditions to experience the hazards first hand.
Ann Lightfoot, Gloucestershire SLC member, said:
“Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council is now consulted on licensing applications. We really welcome this development, and have noticed an improvement in the amount of pavement obstacles in Cheltenham as a result. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council is continuing to work with the team to make further improvements.
Our keynote speaker, racehorse owner, Andrew Gemmell then joined us. Proud owner of Paisley Park, Andrew was born blind. He shared his story into horse racing, funny anecdotes, and some mishaps he has found himself in along the way.
Andrew Gemmell with his racehorse, Paisley Park, at Cheltenham Races earlier this year
Alun Davies, Engagement Manager for the South West said:
“It was really inspiring to listen to Andrew share his story. He has never let being blind hold him back, whether this is travelling the world, playing cricket and football, or pursuing his passion of horse racing. It was a great reminder to all of us that anything is possible.”
The last segment of the event was held by Nathan Drover, Highway Development Manager, Gloucestershire County Council and Pete Woodhouse, Group Manager for Sustainable Transport, Bristol City Council. They talked about some of the challenges presented during the design process for accessible pavements and roads.
They also discussed the future direction of central government’s wider plans. This includes proposals for ‘floating bus stops’, where pedestrians will have to cross a cycle lane to access a bus stop.
There were several concerns raised by delegates who were able to put this forward to Nathan and Pete.
Clare Finnimore, Gloucestershire SLC member, said:
“Many blind and partially sighted people are already scared about going outside their front doors because of e-scooters and pavement obstacles. These plans make me feel like no-one cares about pedestrians any more.”
Vera Seaman, Chair of the Bristol Macular group, said:
“These plans make no sense at all. I really worry that of the older members of my group will be knocked and seriously hurt if this ever happens.”
From left to right: Anela Wood, Bristol SLC member, Alun Davies, Engagement Manager for South West England, Yahya Pandor, Gloucestershire SLC member, and guest speaker Michelle Bignell, Licensing Operations and Development Team Leader at Tewkesbury Borough Council
Feedback from the event
Emma Blackmore, Bristol SLC member said:
“It was really helpful to get a better understanding of what the police can and can’t do regarding e-scooters. I have personally found this very confusing in the past and it was good to get more information.
Coming together with other visually impaired people was a positive experience. We were able to voice our concernsand, by providing feedback, change can happen.”
Yahya Pandor, Gloucestershire SLC member, added:
“Our joint forum proved to be an outstanding success. It fostered a collective gathering of experts and users to look at the challenges posed by obstacles on pavements.
“The event served as a great platform for meaningful dialogue. It facilitated the exchange of experiences and promoted a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to all the attendees who actively participated and made valuable contributions by sharing their stories.”
Lucy Williams, Senior Engagement Manager, South England, said:
‘It was great to hear from attendees and speakers about what can be done to improve the experiences for people with sight loss in navigating the pavements of Bristol and Gloucestershire.
“We are thrilled that all of our speakers are receptive to continuing their work with Sight Loss Councils across the region.”
About Sight Loss Councils
Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. We advocate the needs of visually impaired people and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.
Bristol and Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council’s are looking for new members. If you are blind and partially sighted, live in the region, and want to improve services for visually impaired people in your area, we want to hear from you.
You’ll get the opportunity to create positive change for others, meet like-minded people, have a voice, feel valued, receive training and learn or enhance your skills. Whether you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.
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Publication date: 26 May 2023