Gloucestershire Councillors participate in sim-spec walk
Councillors and officers from Berkeley Town Council and Stroud District Councils joined Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council (SLC) earlier this month to participate in a simulation spectacle (sim spec) walk.
Sim specs allow the wearer to experience some of the various sight loss conditions many residents have.
The walk was organised as part of Gloucestershire SLC’s ongoing work with both councils. It aimed to highlight some of the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted (BPS) people when navigating the built environment. Some of the concerns raised include ongoing issues with street furniture, pavement parking, looking at the number of pedestrian crossings, and an increasing number of overhanging vegetation.
The walk was attended by Ward Councillor Gordon Craig, Cllr Liz Ashton, Cllr Paul Turner, and Justine Hopkins from Berkeley Town Council, Hannah Emery, Corporate Policy and Governance Manager and Liz Shellam, Community Access and Engagement Manager from Stroud District Council, and Andrea Durn from Wotton-under-Edge Town Council.
As a result of the walk, councillors were able to experience these issues first hand. Many said they will use their links in the community to work with businesses the matters raised.
From left to right: Gordon Craig, Berkeley Ward Cllr, Alun Davies, EM for South West, Liz Ashton, Berkeley Town Cllr, Paul Turner, Berkeley Town Cllr, Justine Hopkins, Berkeley Town Clerk, Hannah Emery, SDC Corporate Policy and Governance Manager, Liz Shellam, SDC Community Access and Engagement Manager, and Julie, SLC member with guide dog Heidi.
Feedback from the sim spec walk
Cllr Liz Ashton, Berkeley Town Council, said:
“Thank you for inviting Berkeley Town Council to take part in this awareness raising walk on the issues affecting people with visual impairments in Berkeley.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and found it really enlightening. The opportunity to take part in a walk round town wearing the glasses was invaluable. I’ll definitely be more alert for obstructions on pavements in the future.
“I don’t know how visually impaired people have the courage to cross roads – I was terrified. It made me realise how poorly supported they are in Berkeley, but also gave me constructive pointers on how to improve matters.
“It made such a difference to have Alan and Julie, with their lived experience, leading the session. It was an excellent, but also fun, afternoon. Every town and parish would benefit from the experience.”
Cllr Gordon Craig, Councillor for Berkeley Vale District Ward, added:
“I was privileged to take part in the sim-spec walk with members of Berkeley Town Council and officers from Stroud District Council.
“Berkeley is in the early stages of pulling together a regeneration plan for its own town centre, so understanding some of the issues that blind and partially sighted people experience couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We met some inspirational people from the Sight Loss Council. Each of us were left with a renewed determination that Berkeley town centre will be a design beacon for blind and partially sighted people. Thank you for inspiring us.”
Julie Stephens, Gloucestershire SLC member, said:
“It was great to meet the councillors and their colleagues, who made us all feel very welcome.
The response we received after the walk was overwhelming. One advised she would go into a charity shop we encountered and see if the street furniture could be removed. I would not be at all surprised if this has not already been actioned.
“I would personally like to thank everyone for attending and look forward to working with them again in the future”.
Alun Davies, Engagement Manager for the South West, added:
“We’d like to thank the team at Stroud District Council and Berkeley Town Council for participating in our sim spec walk. The walk enabled us to demonstrate some of the challenges that blind and partially sighted people encounter daily. The team were really engaged and took a lot away from the experience. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with them.”
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Publication date: 17 February 2023