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Taunton blindfold walk highlights growing challenges to accessible streets

A group of people with canes on the Taunton blindfold walk

A group of people with canes on the blindfold walk

A joint event with Guide Dogs shows the challenges to blind and partially sighted people posed by street obstructions and e-scooters, by engaging local decision-makers and organisations in a blindfold walk.

Steve Hyde, RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer for the South West of England, led the blindfold walk with Clive Wood, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, after being invited to Taunton by a blind resident. 

Taunton has a strong recent history of civic engagement by blind residents and Steve was joined by the Mayor of Taunton Sue Lees, who is registered blind. Her husband, Councillor Richard Lees is also blind and was a previous Mayor of Taunton. 

Steve and the Mayor were joined by local councillors, representatives from the Macular Society, the local sight loss society Somerset Sight, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zipp Mobility, an e-scooter rental company. 

Participants were given simulation spectacles, which use filters to simulate symptoms from the most common eye conditions. After Steve’s presentation on sight loss and using canes to navigate the built environment, they set off on their walk around the town.

Among the concerns identified during the walk were the growth of outdoor café seating, and e-scooters parked haphazardly in the town centre’s shared used area, where both pedestrians and cyclists are permitted. Steve showed how the introduction of rental e-scooters makes the problem of inaccessible streets in Taunton worse. 

Charlie Gleeson, CEO of Zipp Mobility, said:

“Meeting and speaking to people with sight loss, wearing simulation spectacles and using a cane gave us lots of ideas on how we can ensure our services support the mobility needs of Taunton in a way that respects all of its residents.”

Sue Lees, Mayor of Taunton, added:

“It was a very worthwhile undertaking and I am sure everyone went away more enlightened as to what it is like to be visually impaired. As Mayor of Taunton, and a visually impaired person myself, I was particularly keen to be involved in the afternoon. Thank you to everyone who came along and took part.”

Steve and Clive, who hosted the event, said it showed the benefits for everyone when local authorities and e-scooter operators work with blind and partially sighted people, to identify the challenges caused by poorly parked and ridden e-scooters.

We hope this experience will bring home the importance of improved e-scooter safety measures and enforcement, along with accessible street design and obstruction-free walkways.

Read more about our campaigning for inclusive journeys.