A vote by Edinburgh City Council to ban advertising boards from the streets of the capital has been applauded by sight loss charity RNIB Scotland.
The move was passed yesterday by the council’s Transport and Environment Committee.
RNIB Scotland says A-boards and other street clutter can deter blind and partially sighted people from walking outside. Bollards, bins, cars parked on pavements and 'shared space' schemes were among the other most common obstacles encountered.
The charity’s chair Sandra Wilson, who is blind herself, said: "We very much welcome this move to make the capital's streets safer and more inclusive for all residents and visitors with disabilities. It's something our RNIB Street Charter has been pressing for throughout the country. While we want businesses to prosper, our streets should not be an obstacle course to be negotiated.
"A third of blind and partially sighted people surveyed by RNIB said they had been injured by pavement clutter when walking outside. Some felt so intimidated they ended up staying isolated in their homes. This is surely unacceptable.
“I lived in Edinburgh for many years and found it an easy city to get around, despite having no sight. Today it’s a different story. I visit frequently but don’t walk around much because of street clutter.
“A-boards are a particular hazard. They appear without warning, there’s no consistency on where they’re placed, then you walk into them, either hurting or injuring yourself or ending up with a bill for the dry cleaner or the garment repairer. Not a very good recommendation for whatever’s being advertised.
"Personally, I have had frequent encounters with obstacles on the street and three years ago almost broke a couple of teeth on what appeared to be a jutting out railing."
Jimmy Milhench is a white-cane user who lives in Causewayside. “There are obstacles that I negotiate every day,” he says, “three big bins on a street next to a bike that is permanently chained to a lamppost are particularly difficult to get around.
“I think they should take all A-boards away. It's not just an issue for blind people. Prams, wheelchair users, parents holding their kids hands as they walk down the street - anyone who won't be walking single file has difficulty getting past, especially as Edinburgh's pavements are so narrow.
“I normally walk on the same bit of street. When someone puts something new in your way you're not ready for it. A-boards jump out at you.”
RNIB Scotland is also calling on the Scottish Government to strengthen and reinforce existing legislation. It points out that under the 1984 Roads Scotland Act it is an offence to wilfully obstruct free passage along the road and deposit anything which causes an obstruction. The Equality Act 2010 requires public authorities to take reasonable steps to enable disabled people to avoid substantial disadvantages caused by physical features.