Our streets are changing quickly to enable social distancing, but these changes must be accessible. Discussions have started around the possible reallocation of street space to allow cafes, bars and restaurants to trade whilst obeying social distancing rules. Whilst it is understandable that every option should be explored, this cannot be done in a way which endangers the safety of pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired.
NCBI had to delay our annual #ClearOurPaths campaign due to Covid-19. The core objective of this campaign is to highlight the dangers of temporary obstacles on the footpath. 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 that block 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 or vision impaired.
Currently, businesses are required to have a license from their County Council to place temporary street furniture on the public footpath and it is up to each County Council to enforce its bylaws.
In addition, the number of people walking and cycling has increased during the pandemic and the Programme for Government has also announced a significant spend each year over the life of the next Government for changes to street design that encourages more walking and cycling. Where any changes to street layouts are going to be made, County Councils need to consult with representative organisations including NCBI and with people who are blind or vision impaired who live in the locality to ensure that their needs are fully considered.
Join NCBI’s local advocacy networks to get involved. Call the NCBI Policy and Advocacy Team on 01 830 70 33 or email [email protected]