Councillors walk blind in Southport town centre
Merseyside Sight Loss Council (MSLC) held the guided walk to highlight how difficult it is to navigate, particularly where there are a lot of outdoor cafes and pavement obstacles, such as advertising boards (A-boards).
These cause obstructions for blind and partially sighted (BPS) pedestrians, and the wider community. During the guided walk, councillors also visited Lord Street in Southport town centre. Lord Street is known for its many cafes and retail stores.
SLC Engagement Manager Kelly Barton (pictured left) with Robert Fletcher, Chair of Southport Town Deal
MSLC, funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust, is led by blind and partially sighted members. Together, they tackle local issues and work with businesses and service providers to improve the accessibility of their services.
MSLC initiated the walk because it wants Sefton Council to consider the needs of blind and partially sighted people in any future redevelopment of the town centre.
MSLC members also attended. They took the opportunity to share their lived experience of the problems that they face daily, as BPS pedestrians.
Councillor Carol Richardson said:
“This experience was very enlightening. It helped us all to understand the experience of blind and visually impaired residents of Southport. Every councillor needs to consider how to improve the situation.”
Councillor Paul Cummins, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Sefton Council, said:
“It was a really challenging, but enlightening experience. It obviously was for only a brief period but gets you thinking about the day-to-day challenges for VI people. As a local politician, it also raises awareness of how we need to plan for the future and consider things differently.”
Andrew Evans, Board Member of Southport Town Deal, wearing sim specs (pictured left) with Southport Cllr Greg Myers
Kelly Barton, Sight Loss Council Engagement Manger, added:
“We were absolutely delighted that 20 officers and councillors joined our walk today. Everyone really engaged with the event, and it was a great opportunity for participants to walk in the shoes of blind and partially sighted people. We are now looking forward to engaging and working further with Sefton Council.”
Last year, RNIB’s ‘See Streets Differently’ report revealed blind and partially sighted people find it increasingly difficult to avoid accidents on their walking journeys.
These everyday objects may not sound threatening, but they have a very real and negative impact on the accessibility of pavements for blind and partially sighted people.
Research showed factors such as new street designs, pavement parking and bins, were some of the many concerns.
Publication date: 07 December 2022