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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

CHARITY TODAY AWARDS

Blind people put at risk by inaccessible streets

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SIGHT Loss Councils, which advocates for blind and partially sighted people across the UK, is warning the increase in e-scooters, together with cluttered pavements, shared space schemes and pavement parking are threatening the safety and independence of visually impaired people.

In response, Sight Loss Councils has launched its Streets for All campaign to raise awareness of the challenges. The campaign will shed light on the issues through case studies, national surveys and engaging directly with politicians and local authorities.

Mike Bell, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager for Sight Loss Councils said:

“Blind and partially sighted people face huge challenges every day to access our public spaces. For example, new street re-designs for social distancing measures, tables and chairs cluttering pavements, cars parked on pavements and the increased use of e-scooters. The Government needs to ensure the safety and independence of visually impaired people are considered and that streets are designed for all of us.”

The first phase of Streets For All will focus on pavement parking and the increased use of e-scooters.

The Department for Transport has approved specifications for e-scooters which are faster, heavier and have greater acceleration than in all other European countries. They also operate quietly making them difficult to hear. And it may not always be obvious to someone driving an e-scooter that they are approaching a pedestrian with visual impairment. This makes interactions between the two potentially dangerous.

Clare Williams is from Smethwick and she has a form of macular degeneration. Clare is worried about the introduction of E-scooters. She said:

“I nearly got taken out by an illegal e-scooter in a local park. E-scooters concern me because I can’t hear them coming. Another time, an e-scooter almost ran over my guide dog, forcing her to jump out of the way. They make me feel vulnerable when I’m out and about.”

Sight Loss Councils, funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust, and led by blind and partially sighted people, work closely with businesses, charities, transport hubs, local politicians and other service providers to improve access to services for visually impaired people at a local and national level.

It has worked with e-scooter operator Tier, which has, as a result, committed to adding Acoustic Vehicle Alert systems (AVAS) to its vehicles. You can read more about this here:  www.sightlosscouncils.org.uk/news/e-scooter-operator-tier-commits-to-acoustic-alert-system-news

Sight Loss Councils are further encouraging local authorities and e-scooter operators to adopt guidance published by Thomas Pocklington Trust and other sight loss organisations

Mike said: “Sight Loss Councils recognise the environmental benefits of e-scooters but these need to be made safer. We are calling for a change in government guidance on e-scooters to include audible signals, a lower speed limit and geotagging restrictions to prevent pavement use.”

Cars parked on pavements are also putting blind and partially sighted people in real danger, as they are often forced to step into the road to avoid the cars.

The Government has launched a consultation on pavement parking asking whether pavement parking should be banned and what powers local authorities should be given to challenge individuals who park their cars on pavements.

Mike said: “After years of lobbying by a number of organisations, we are delighted the government has produced this consultation. As part of Streets for All, we are calling on politicians and members of the public to respond to this consultation. We recommend a nation-wide ban on pavement parking. It represents a real danger to the safety and independence of blind and partially sighted people.”

Sight Loss Councils has launched a national survey asking for people’s views on their experiences surrounding e-scooter use and pavement parking. You can find out more about the campaign by visiting: www.sightlosscouncils.org.uk/streetsforall

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