STREETS: Fears over shared spaces

The guidelines on making our streets safe for blind and visually impaired people, as the outline plans recently published for Alnwick, include the very dangerous and confusing shared spaces.

hese have caused accidents in other places they have been used and Guide Dogs For The blind and RNIB are campaigning against them.

Our aging population means that more and more pedestrians will have diminishing sight and hearing.

It is now even more imperative to take this into account or the number of accidents will rise, as will those who lose their independence due to no longer having the confidence to try toavigate areas where the usual helpful kerbs, pedestrian crossings and tactile crossing/dropped kerbs have vanished.

Guide dogs are trained to lead their owners to a kerb, then to sit, which is the signal for the visually impaired person to take over and safely cross them over by using their hearing.

A dog cannot judge traffic, nor possible changes in the colour of bricks, to know where and when to cross its owner. It must have proper kerbs of about four to five-feet high. As must those with visual impairments who navigate using a long cane.

The article in the Gazette a week or two ago was discussed at our monthly Socialeyes lunch, with many fears raised on these issues.

We are a group of people, mostly blind or visually impaired with some losing their hearing too.

This is the Alnwick and district social offshoot of the Northumberland County Blind Association, based in Morpeth.

Though not all live in Alnwick, all use Alnwick for shopping, banking, doctors’ etc.

Chris Grethe, vice-chairmanof Low Vision Action for Northumberland, and, in that capacity, on behalf of the RNIB, has taken Mrs Trevelyan, blindfolded, around Alnwick to show her the difficulty of getting your banking, shopping and so on done when you are blind.

She said: “I found the walk a very useful and interesting experience. I have gained a stronger understanding of the problems which blind people have to put up with due to our failures to meet street management.

“I will be working with local councillors to ensure improvements are made, for blind residents and visitors, or wheelchair users in Alnwick.”

The situation is difficult enough, without making it even more hazardous with Shared Spaces.

Rob and Catherine

Davies for Chris Grethe,