Working for People with Sight Loss

Caution Required in Reallocation of Street Space as it Presents a Serious Safety Risk For Vision-Impaired

a blind man with his white cane walking on the footpath run into sandwich board

Wednesday 29th April 2020, NCBI is urging caution in the growing debate around the reallocation of street space in Ireland as the Government begins to examine ways to lessen COVID-19 restrictions. NCBI fears these changes could cause harm and injury on the almost 55,000 people who are blind and vision-impaired.

Kevin Kelly, NCBI Head of Advocacy, said “as we now turn to re-awakening the economy, discussion has started around the possible reallocation of street space to allow cafes, bars and restaurants to reopen whilst obeying physical distancing rules. Whilst it is understandable that every option should be explored to allow businesses to trade in the months ahead while we are living with the virus, this cannot be done in a way which endangers the safety of people who are blind and vision-impaired, and those who have reduced mobility.

“Ironically NCBI has had to cancel our #ClearOurPaths campaign next week due to Covid-19. The core aspect of this campaign is to highlight the dangers of temporary obstacles. In fact, much work has been done in recent years to reduce the volume of temporary street furniture like sandwich boards, chairs and tables, and temporary structures blocking footpaths in our towns and cities across Ireland. The current system of enforcement is not perfect, but the thought of cafes, restaurants and bars being allowed to place these types of obstacles on public paths are a grave source of concern for people who are blind and vision-impaired, and will exacerbate the challenges they face in a world where COVID-19 has robbed them, largely, of the free use of their sense of touch.”

Currently, businesses are required to have a license from their local authority or city council in order to place temporary street furniture on the public footpath and it is up to each local authority to enforce these bylaws.

Mr Kelly concluded “Living with impaired vision presents many challenges, but one of the most frustrating and confidence-zapping experiences is running the gauntlet of temporary obstacles placed on footpaths. It takes a lot of courage when you are blind or vision-impaired to head out with your cane or guide dog and independently attempt to go about your business. For many, it can feel as if you are playing a never-ending game of pinball, but unfortunately, you are the ball crashing about.”

-ENDS-

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact June Tinsley NCBI 01 8821917/ 087 9955076