Scotland's leading sight loss charity is warning that the proliferation of advertising boards and other pavement clutter is making Glasgow's streets an obstacle course for blind and partially sighted residents and those with other disabilities.
"Blind and partially sighted people have as much right to freely traverse our streets safely as anyone else," said James Adam, Director of RNIB Scotland. "But A-boards and other street clutter, like carelessly arranged café tables, can deter many from walking outdoors. They can appear without warning often with no consistency in where they’re placed, so people just walk into them, either hurting or injuring themselves.
"While we want businesses to prosper, our streets should not be an obstacle course to be negotiated. Advertising boards could be replaced by boards mounted on a business' walls, for example."
An earlier survey by RNIB across the UK found that a third of blind and partially sighted people questioned said they'd been injured by advertising boards and other obstacles while walking outside. Some said they felt so intimidated they ended up isolated in their homes. Bollards, bins, cars parked on pavements and shared space schemes were among the other obstacles commonly encountered.
The charity points to a successful move by Edinburgh City Council in 2018 to ban advertising boards from the capital's streets after consultations with businesses and disability groups.
RNIB Scotland has already called on the Scottish Government to strengthen and reinforce existing legislation. It points out that under the 1984 Roads Scotland Act it's 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.
The call from RNIB Scotland follows a contentious decision by Glasgow City Council last month to make permanent the changes made to street layouts under the Scottish Government's Spaces for People initiative. Disability groups have argued that these measures have inadvertently made going outdoors more hazardous for pedestrians with disabilities.
"We want to reiterate our concerns about the implications of making temporary Spaces for People measures permanent," said James Adams. "The decisions taken could have serious long-term implications for the citizens of Glasgow in terms of how they access their city and its amenities.
"The safety of pedestrians, particularly those who are more vulnerable, must be the deciding factor when determining changes."