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How you can help people with sight loss in your neighbourhood

I'm Niall McMurtry, Volunteering Recruitment Manager at RNIB. As a visually impaired person and guide dog owner, I'm always aware of the challenges of getting around in my own neighbourhood.

A close up of a person from behind, holding a white cane.

From having to dodge around cars parked on the pavement, to hoping my neighbours have picked up after their dogs - every outing can throw up its obstacles. So, I’ve put together three simple but helpful things everyone can do to help make getting out and about easier for people living with little or no sight.

1. Prune

Plants are at the height of their growing season now and can quickly become an obstruction on the pavement. Keep the plants in your own garden trimmed so they don't become a hazard or barrier. All pavements should be clear to a height of 2.3 metres or 7.5 feet. If you come across a property with a tree or shrub causing a significant barrier, is there an opportunity to alert the owner? You can report a hazardous obstruction to your local authority who may then write to the property owner with a request to cut back the obstructing foliage.

2. Be bin-tidy

When putting your wheelie bin out for collection, try to park it to the rear of the pavement, as it makes it easier for people with limited vision to get past. Admittedly, rubbish collectors don't always leave bins back in the same place, so if you walk down your street and find a bin in the middle of the path, moving it back to the rear of the pavement can make all the difference.

3. Keep the lights on

Good lighting is important for many people with limited sight. We're enjoying light evenings now, but we're past the longest day and come the end of October when the clocks go back, many people find the increased hours of darkness a barrier to getting out and about. If you spot a streetlamp or lamps in your neighbourhood that aren't working, report this to your local authority or their nominated contractor. Many lamp posts have a reference number on them which you can use for reporting purposes. When you are visually impaired, you may not be able to see the reference stamped on the lamp post, preventing you from reporting the failure yourself. So, this is a very helpful thing you can do as a sighted resident in your own neighbourhood.