Councillors ‘walk blind’ through Hebden Bridge
During the walk, they wore simulation spectacles (sim specs) which simulate the various sight conditions some local residents have.
West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council (WYSLC) initiated the sim spec walk to highlight the ongoing issue of pavement obstacles, such as advertising boards (A-boards). These cause obstructions for blind and partially sighted pedestrians, and the wider community.
This will further inform Calderdale Council’s launch of a new A-boards licensing policy to help make streets more accessible. Current proposals include a trial ban of A-boards being put out onto the streets in the centre of Hebden Bridge.
West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council, 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.
The walk was also attended by Councillor Sarah Courtney from Calderdale Council, Councillor Patsi Guilfoye of Hebden Royd Town Council, Councillor Colin Hutchinson of Skircoat in Halifax, and representatives from Hebden Royd Business Forum.
(Left to right) Cllr Colin Hutchinson of Skircoat in Halifax, Senior WYSLC Engagement Manager Iain Mitchell, and Cllr Sarah Courtney, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Towns, Engagement and Public Health.
Feedback from the walk
Iain Mitchell, Senior Engagement Manager for WYSLC, said:
“We really appreciate that representatives from Hebden Bridge and Calderdale Council came to participate in this exercise. Street furniture really does impact on the movement and confidence of blind and partially sighted people accessing their local communities. It is good to see that both local and national charities have come together to raise awareness on this matter.”
Graham Bowe, a Sight Loss Council Co-ordinator who attended the walk, added:
“It was great to be involved on the walk today. Hopefully it will bring some more awareness to the obstacles on pavements for blind and partially sighted people including A-boards.”
Colin Hutchinson, Councillor for Skircoat in Halifax, a former eye surgeon and Trustee for Halifax Society for the Blind, said:
“The experience of trying to navigate using the simulation spectacles makes you realise just how much harder it is to do something we can so easily take for granted. You have to look around for hazards and obstacles to negotiate them. It is particularly challenging when there is a combination of hazards like kerbs, other people and crowded pavements with obstacles such as A-boards.”
Councillor Sarah Courtney, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Towns, Engagement and Public Health, said:
“The walk really made me think about the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face and what a privilege it is to have good sight.
“Linked to our programme of green and healthy streets for Calderdale, we want to ensure that our streets are accessible, so that everyone can enjoy the town centre and purchase items in local shops and cafes. It is essential that we tackle this and raise awareness of the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people.”
Alison Bartram, owner of Heart Gallery and member of the Business Forum, added:
“I wore the macular degeneration glasses. This helped me to understand what my dad has been experiencing for many years. It was quite scary and quite moving. It also made me realise how difficult it must be for anybody who is blind or partially sighted, or who has mobility problems, to navigate the streets.”
Last year, RNIB’s ‘See Streets Differently’ report revealed residents in Yorkshire and Humber found it increasingly difficult to avoid accidents on their walking journeys. Research showed factors such as new street designs, pavement parking and bins, were some of the many concerns.
Senior Engagement Manager Iain Mitchell distributing simulation spectacles to everyone taking part in the walk.
Are you blind or partially sighted and want to get involved in tackling local issues, or know somebody who is?
West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council is currently recruiting new members.
Together, they tackle local issues and work with businesses and service providers to improve the accessibility of their services.
Publication date: 11 October 2022