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RNIB highlights issues emerging from the “new normal”

RNIB highlights issues emerging from the “new normal”
3rd August 2020 Ian Streets

The RNIB is targeting regional newspapers with its latest call for the government to keep the country’s streets accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
The charity highlighted its concerns in May after the government announced plans to spend £250m on changes to street design to encourage more walking and cycling.
As local authorities have embarked on making the changes Eleanor Thompson, the RNIB’s Head of Police and Public Affairs, is raising awareness of some of the issues that can arise with people becoming more active, returning to work and resuming their social lives.
In a letter which has gone out to many regional newspapers, Eleanor notes that local authorities are creating new cycle lanes, beginning trials of e-scooters and placing tables and chairs on pavements outside cafes.
She adds that such developments can have a direct impact on blind and partially-sighted people who0 can’t see where new cycle lanes cross walkways, find it difficult to identify silent e-scooters and have paths blocked by al fresco dining furniture.
She wrote: “It’s essential that local authorities consult with disabled people to consider the effect these changes may have on people who are blind or partially-sighted or who have other mobility issues.
“Space for new cycle lanes should be taken from roads, have controlled crossings and not affect bus access. E-scooter trials must not inadvertently increase obstacles on the pavement and businesses considering putting furniture outside should think about how disabled people will navigate around it.”
The RNIB suggests a series of specific measures:
• Where pavements are extended out into the road, the surface of the pavement along with the kerb should be physically extended. This would enable all pedestrians to detect and use the increased pedestrian space.
• Where pop-up cycle lanes are introduced, signage should be placed on the road/cycle lane, not on the pavement, and there should always be a detectable kerb between vehicles – including bikes – and pedestrians.
• Where e-scooters are trialled, they should never be allowed on pavements and this must be robustly enforced to ensure pedestrians are not put at risk.
• Where any changes to street layouts or routes have been made, these changes must be communicated in an accessible way to the blind and partially sighted people who live locally.
Eleanor wrote: “Our ‘new normal’ should be an open and inclusive as possible to help everyone get back outside – not make it more difficult.”
The charity has also introduced a “courtesy code to raise awareness among people that not all disabilities are visible and to ask them to show consideration to other pedestrians who may have hidden disabilities.
The RNIB wants to make sure that people can:
• Keep safe and keep two metres apart
• Be aware that not all disabilities, including sight loss, are visible
• Work together to ensure everyone can use our roads and paths

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