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Fife councillors experience street obstacles wearing sight loss simulation-spectacles

A group of people and a guide dog stood outside on the street.

Group of councillors and local residents, and representatives from local society groups and RNIB Scotland.

A cross-party group of Dunfermline Councillors tried to navigate around obstacles and clutter on the streets of Dunfermline this morning (Friday 24 November), wearing spectacles that mimic different sight loss conditions.

The exercise was arranged by leading national charity RNIB Scotland, in a bid to demonstrate the problems that blind and partially sighted residents experience when confronted with shared spaces between pedestrians and cars, advertising boards, and other street obstacles.

Taking part were Councillors Rod Cavanagh, Gordon Pryde, and Ann Verner - who herself has glaucoma, a sight loss condition.

The councillors took part in a discussion with local residents with sight loss, before taking a 15-minute walk in the city centre. They wore special spectacles that simulated blotchy (retinopathy), cloudy (cataract) and tunnel (glaucoma) vision as well as other conditions.

The route highlighted many of the issues raised in RNIB Scotland’s recent Street Credibility report. The document notes many concerns around the design of urban streetscapes, many of which negatively affect the independence and ability of blind and partially sighted people to access their community, social life and work, as well as vital services like healthcare.

Crossing at a dropped kerb with no tactile paving.

Tracy Boland, a guide dog user and a member of Social Eyes, a local group for those with visual impairments, said,

“When I’m out and about, all I’m thinking about are the obstacles I have to get around. So many of the pavements are full of A-boards [advertising boards] or bollards, or we’re sharing spaces with cars.

“Blind and partially sighted people are almost invisible to everyone else. How are we supposed to make ourselves seen? I’ve written letters, taken photographs, and things stay the same. I’ve not got any fight left in me.

“Events like today are so important, so councillors and other decision makers can understand navigating streets from our perspective. They’re the ones that can make sure we’re not excluded from future development plans so we can travel safely and independently.”

A-Boards are often major trip hazards. Pictured is Cllr Pryde wearing light-perception-only sim specs, with Judith Barton from the Macular Society