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Edinburgh City councillors join blind residents to experience Leith Walk hazards

Two local authority councillors will attempt to find their way down Leith Walk in Edinburgh today while wearing special spectacles that simulate sight loss conditions.

Councillors Jack Caldwell and Susan Rae, whose constituencies are in the Leith area of the city, will be joined by local residents who are blind or partially sighted.

The exercise has been organised by the national charity RNIB Scotland in a bid to demonstrate the problems that those with sight loss can experience. Cycle-lanes that cut between pavements and bus stops, advertising boards, café tables and chairs on streets are among the obstacles they can be routinely confronted with.

Wide-ranging concerns have been expressed by disability groups as Edinburgh, along with towns and cities across the country, engage in moves to redesign urban streetscapes, part of a post-lockdown bid to encourage more active travel like cycling.

Leith resident Kirin Saeed was partially sighted until the age of eleven when she then lost most of her remaining vision. "I can just about make out a bit of light and dark now," she says.

“I really love living in Leith but in the last few years my confidence in going out safely has decreased because of the shared spaces and change of how tactile-pavement is used. It’s really important for any visually impaired person to have consistency in getting out and about on their own.

“I am delighted that councillors are taking part in this and listening to what visually impaired people have to say. Here’s hoping for positive action in the future.”

Eileen Clarkson, campaigns officer with RNIB Scotland, said: "We welcome any opportunity to let elected members find out more about how difficult just getting out and about can be when you have sight loss, and, in Edinburgh, Leith Walk is a particularly challenging example. The short route we have chosen has numerous obstacles that can present a hazard to the blind and partially sighted.

"We believe the needs of all residents and visitors to Edinburgh should be built into future developments to ensure some areas don't inadvertently become no-go areas for those with sight loss."