The RNIB Street Charter campaign is seeking to persuade local authorities to control the number of obstacles that block streets. A third of blind and partially sighted people surveyed by RNIB said they had been injured by pavement obstacles when walking outside. Advertising boards, bollards, bins and cars parked on pavements were the most common obstacles encountered.
We are also concerned about plans to introduce 'shared spaces' in town and city centres where pavements are levelled. We are pointing out that guide-dog and white-stick users rely on kerbs to give tactile clues, and that drivers will be unaware pedestrians with sight loss can't see them.
We have welcomed the move by the City of Edinburgh Council to pilot the ban we called for on advertising boards. We also helped press the City of Aberdeen Council to introduce a controlled crossing on a city centre shared space.
People with sight loss are entitled to receive communications and information from healthcare providers in a format that is accessible to them. But we know many still aren’t. We have asked blind and partially sighted people about their experiences. Their responses have informed our new report ‘Communication Failure? A review of the accessibility of health information for blind and partially sighted people’ and our ‘Accessible Health Information Toolkit’.
A number of disability benefits are now being devolved to the Scottish Government. We are pressing to make the new system fairer and better attuned to the needs and circumstances of people with sight loss. We want to ensure those carrying out assessments have a clear understanding of how different types of sight loss impact on what people can and can't do.
We are members of the Scottish Government's Ill Health and Disability Reference Group which informs policy-making on a range of issues, including disability benefits.
We are actively campaigning to improve accessibility of public transport for blind and partially sighted passengers, by working with transport providers to deliver disability awareness training to their staff, and by ensuring that information is available in accessible formats.
Blind and partially sighted school children may not receive the additional support they need because of a shortage of specialist teachers.
We're calling on local authorities to invest in more Qualified Teachers of Visual Impairment (QTVIs) by providing greater incentives to complete the required training. We're also pressing the Scottish Government to report annually on educational attainment by school pupils with a visual impairment.
This fifth term of the Scottish Parliament (2016-21) coincides with the devolution of greater responsibilities to Holyrood. In our manifesto for the last election we outlined areas which could significantly improve life for people in Scotland who are blind or partially sighted. Like most developed countries, we have an ageing population. So sight loss, inevitably, will become a more common feature of our society.
Our proposals - including more emphasis on prevention, and emotional and practical support for those newly diagnosed - can make Scotland a kinder, safer and more inclusive place. The costs are relatively modest, but the gains could be far-reaching and profound.
RNIB Scotland also acts as the secretariat for the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Visual Impairment. Its membership includes backbench MSPs from all parties, other sight loss organisations and sight loss professionals.
At UK level, we work alongside RNIB's wider campaigns such as the RNIB Bus Charter to ensure that public transport services are accessible, ensuring emotional support and counselling is available to people newly diagnosed with sight loss, and pressing for all welfare benefits to be better attuned to the needs and circumstances of people with sight loss.
We also engage with RNIB Scotland’s Connect community in identifying issues we might campaign on.
Interested in campaigning with RNIB Scotland? Please get in touch with Cate Vallis at [email protected]