Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton has been finding out what getting around Eastleigh would be like if you were blind or partially sighted.
There many items of street furniture in Eastleigh town centre we take for granted and manage to avoid colliding with without thinking about it but many of these items can be hazardous for blind members of the community.
The MP donned a pair of spectacles which simulated the effects of glaucoma walked around the town guided by Marie Jenkins of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Brian Anderson a partially sighted RNIB Volunteer.
Jenkins and Anderson gave the MP a commentary on the various problems they encountered on their journey.
The RNIB say street obstacles; bollards, advertising boards, bins, and cars parked on pavements are a growing problem preventing many people with sight loss from getting out and about.
While walking about the MP commented on the poor state of the road and pavement surfacing which meant it was difficult to locate the areas of tactile paving which denote the start and finish of road crossing points for blind pedestrians.
Street crossings and ‘shared space’ schemes can be particularly dangerous and while passing by The Holy Cross church the lack of a kerbstone and a clearly definable pedestrian area resulted in Brian Anderson inadvertently straying into the road way and the path of an oncoming car.
“I was completely unaware I was in the road”
confessed Anderson afterwards
“There was no indication or tactile indicator to tell me I was in the road I was concentrating on what Mike and Marie were saying and I just found myself with a car coming up behind me”.
Anderson also said he found the current building work in the precinct to be ‘very disorientating”.
“Councils need to consult with blind and partially sighted people before they redesign the streetscape in towns”
Marie Jenkins said that blind and partially sighted people have a wealth of information to share with councils and councils should be consulting with them making the planning process accessible.
Mike Thornton said:
“There has been a lot things done to try and improve the situation.There has been a genuine attempt by planners to try and help and it needs to be looked at again.
I will be contacting them to say ‘this isn’t as good as it could be’.
We need to get more input from the blind and partially sighted community to help us plan better”.