SLC raises awareness of street obstacles in Tyne and Wear 

Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council (SLC) has raised awareness of street obstacles and their impact amongst council officials and regional media in their bid to #MakeStreetsAccessible.

Officers from Newcastle City Council tried to navigate the city centre whilst wearing simulation spectacles. These are special glasses that mirror various sight conditions many local residents have.

Tyne and Wear SLC held the guided walk on Tuesday 30 April. It aimed to highlight the ongoing issue of pavement obstacles, such as advertising boards (A-boards) and more recently e-scooters.

These can often cause obstructions for blind and partially sighted (BPS) pedestrians, and the wider community, leading to trips and falls. Both BBC and ITV news covered the walk.

Jack, Engagement Manager for North East, is standing next to an advertising board, demonstrating why misplaced a-boards are hazardous.

Jack, Engagement Manager for North East England, discusses the hazards an ill-placed A-board can have on BPS people

Tyne and Wear SLC volunteers took the opportunity to share their daily challenges as BPS pedestrians. For example, tables and chairs on the pavement outside cafes, and advertising boards in the middle of the pavement, can reduce people’s confidence to engage in their daily activities.

Feedback from the walk

Jack Moffat, Engagement Manager for Tyne and Wear SLC, said:

“We have around 36,800 blind and partially sighted people living in the local area. Our joint goal to make Newcastle streets and the local environment accessible by removing barriers for blind and partially sighted people, so everyone can live the lives they want to live in an equal way.

“As a white cane user myself, I have struggled to navigate the streets in the city centre of Newcastle. I often bump into advertising boards blocking the pavement with my cane and have tripped over e-scooters that have been left outside of shops. This creates a fear of going out to do the everyday things that others can do without stress. I want to be able to access Newcastle city centre without fear and enjoy the wonderful city that I am so proud of.

“If we can navigate our streets independently and safely, we can travel outside of the house to get to work, appointments, socialise and essentially live our lives. It is good to see that the local council, and local and national charities, have come together to raise awareness on this matter.

“The representatives from Newcastle City Council threw themselves in to the experience and learned a great deal about the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people in Newcastle city centre. We are going to work together to improve issues such as tactile paving, advertising boards (A-boards) and e-scooters moving forward.

A huge thank you to Newcastle vision support for helping us with sighted guides. We are proud to work in collaboration for the benefit of visually impaired people in the north east. An immensely positive day for all involved.”

Officers from Newcastle City Council, during the sim spec walk. They are walking down the street in pairs, one in simulation glasses, the other guiding.

Officers from Newcastle City Council, walking in pairs during the sim-spec walk

Lando Van Hilton, said:

“I was impressed by the council members enthusiasm and willingness to learn during their session with us.

“I admit, I had become resigned to the idea that city centres are a dangerous obstacle course that I cannot navigate independently.

“It’s good to know that because of our work with the council, this may no longer be the case.”

Christine Herriot, Director of City Operations, Neighbourhoods & Regulatory Services at Newcastle City Council, added:

“This was a great opportunity for the council, and I would like to thank Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council for giving their time to highlight potential issues that blind and partially sighted people may face in our city.

“Newcastle City Council is committed to ensuring the city is accessible for everyone and we work very hard to incorporate accessibility needs into all of our designs and developments. But it is very useful to also think more about how the city is navigated on a day-to-day basis and understand what obstacles some people may come up against, some of which we may have not considered.”

SLC partners, including Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Newcastle Vision Support and North East Sight Matters Rehabilitation Officer, supported the walk.

Learn more about our work to #MakeStreetsAccessible

Jack, Engagement Manager for North East England, standing with officers from Newcastle City Council next to tactile markings on a pavement. He is holding his cane above the tactile marking as he talks to them.

Newcastle City Council officers, learning more about tactile markings

Join Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council

Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council is recruiting new members who live in the local area.

If you are blind and partially sighted and want to improve services for visually impaired people, we want to hear from you.

You’ll get the opportunity to create positive change for others, meet like-minded people, have a voice, receive training and enhance your skills. If you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for you to get involved in.

Join us

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Publication date: 07 May 2024

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