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Seeing the town in a different light

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Stroud Town councillors have been learning first-hand about the barriers which prevent the town centre being accessible for all.

Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council led a group of town councillors and officers, and blind and partially sighted community members, on a guided walk around the town centre.

Sight Loss Councils, funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust, are regional groups led by blind and partially sighted people. Together, they work with organisations to ensure what they do is accessible and inclusive.

During the walk, councillors wore simulation spectacles (sim specs) which simulate the various sight conditions some local residents have.

By using glasses which mimic certain eye conditions it enabled the group to experience first-hand the challenges and hazards that our streets present.

Also taking part were Stroud District Council officers, representatives from the office of the MP and the community policing team.

Visualwalk | Seeing the town in a different light

“The walk certainly made it apparent that our busy high street, with its many advertising boards, bollards, planters and seating, can be really difficult to move through when your vision is compromised,” said Stroud Mayor Stella Parkes.

Alun Davies, Sight Loss Council Engagement Manager at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:“This is one of several walks we are delivering across Stroud in partnership with Stroud District Council and all the town and parish councils.

“Everyone who has taken part has said how illuminating and helpful they have found them. They have given them ideas about how to improve their local built environment for blind and partially sighted people.”

Adrian Sparkes, a partially-sighted local resident, joined the group and recounted some of the other issues he experiences on his walks around the wider Stroud area.

Some of the challenges he has encountered include uneven pavements, tables outside cafes, advertising boards and some bollards and lamp posts due to their colour making them hard to see.

“I have also had problems with single traffic sign posts,” he said. “If a post is hit by a car causing it to tilt over, it is a hazard when walking past. I have walked into various posts and hit myself on the top part of the post.”

Town Councillor Naomi Seffar said: “I have the impetus now to share my experience with other members of the community. As someone who works on the High Street, I have witnessed how people navigate all the obstacles and traffic. I will also advocate and support any positive actions to improve things in Stroud Town Centre.”

Wayne Hands, a volunteer member of Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council, said the walks were a great way to raise awareness about the difficulties people with visual impairments face when out and about.

“The people who join us on these walks get to experience how hard it can be to get around our town centres when there are obstacles like A boards, tables and chairs outside cafés, overhanging bushes, and broken paving just to name a few,” said Mr Hands.

“Although the experience is a serious issue it can also be a fun way to learn more about how we should not make assumptions about our environment and take more care in planning to allow easier access for people with visual impairments.”

The Town Council hopes to repeat the walk with people with other disabilities and other stakeholders in the area.

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