'Simple but far-reaching steps' can create a more inclusive Scotland for blind and partially sighted people
National sight loss charity RNIB Scotland is calling on all political parties to build on the greater social cohesiveness that the coronavirus crisis has engendered.
Launching its manifesto for next year's Scottish Parliament elections, the charity's director James Adams said: "The next Scottish Parliament will convene in a changing world. A world forced to re-evaluate things previously taken for granted, in which everyone has been made more aware of how dependent we are on each other.
"A Vision for the 2020s' sets out simple but far-reaching steps that can create a more inclusive Scotland for blind and partially sighted people. Let's seize this opportunity."
The manifesto is calling on the next Scottish Government to launch a new campaign to emphasise the importance of regular eye examinations in preventing sight loss. Over 178,000 people in Scotland currently live with significant sight loss but this could potentially double if steps aren't taken to contain it.
The manifesto also wants Ministers to report annually on the attainment figures for blind and partially sighted school pupils and train more specialist teachers as a matter of urgency. It highlights that only one in four blind and partially sighted adults are currently in paid employment.
'Shared spaces' schemes - where pedestrians and vehicles occupy the same level area - should be scrapped, the manifesto says, and a nationwide ban on pavement parking and advertising boards implemented.
People with sight loss claiming the new disability benefits devolved to Scotland should not have to undergo periodic reassessed if there is no realistic prospect of their condition improving. Any benefits awarded should cover the often significant, additional costs of living with a visual impairment.
The manifesto is also calling for all public information to be available in accessible formats such as braille, large-print and audio, and for alternative voting methods to ensure people can cast their ballot independently and in secret.
Mr Adams said: "We want a health service that prevents avoidable sight loss and helps people come to terms with it when it isn't. Education that helps every child reach their full potential, and employers who better understand what people with sight loss are capable of. Information that's always available in alternative formats and public transport that's always accessible. And we want our streets and thoroughfares to allow pedestrians to walk safely and without obstacles.
"Today's coronavirus crisis has exacerbated many of the problems blind and partially sighted people face. But it's brought to the fore, too, some of the best instincts of our society. That generosity of spirit can be the spur for a new deal for people with sight loss and other disabilities.
"Let's make that one lasting legacy of the parliamentary term ahead."