Make Sunderland’s streets safer for blind people, pleads charity

Lucy Dixon from the RNIB with Elaine Lithgoe and Peter Carling who are both registered blind and find Sunderland city centre difficult to get around.
Lucy Dixon from the RNIB with Elaine Lithgoe and Peter Carling who are both registered blind and find Sunderland city centre difficult to get around.
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A ‘BAN the boards’ call has been sent out in a bid to clear Wearside streets of risks to the blind.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has sent out a plea to businesses to pull A-board advertisements.

Its latest campaign also highlights what it says is a growing problem of dangerous street crossings and obstacles, including bollards, bins and cars parked on pavements.

It says they are not only a risk to the blind or visually impaired, but all those with disabilities.

Blandford Street and Fawcett Street in Sunderland city centre have been singled out as two of the worst in the city for obstructions.

The charity’s Lucy Dixon, said: “We have done a walkabout with the council’s officers and highlighted the problem and they are supportive in words, but they’ve said they don’t have the resources to enforce it.

“That’s why we’re calling for a ban.

“We’re not just complaining for complaining’s sake.

“They are not just a nuisance, but a danger.

“There are a lot of people who have had cuts and bruises, but for the blind and visually impaired, it could be a lot worse.

“With parking on the pavements, sometimes people have to walk out into the road.

“It’s become such a problem for some, they say ‘I’m just not going to go out anymore’.”

The charity says its research shows businesses do not get a boost from A-boards placed outside, but one business in Blandford Street said they had seen the take up of a deal double after advertising using the notices.

Shops pay a licence to place boards and furniture on the street.

Peter Cassidy, 49, from Grindon, has the genetic condition retintis pigmentosa, and is assisted by guide dog Willow.

He said: “It just makes it so difficult for people.

“I had a scrape with a van about two weeks ago, where it had parked on the pavement in Pallion.”

Elaine Lithgoe, 59, from Seaburn, has diabetic retinopathy and maculopathy and uses a tap rail to find her way.

She said: “A-boards are very popular on the streets of Sunderland, but they’re hard to negotiate.”