Catherine McKinnell MP recently undertook a blindfold challenge in her Newcastle North constituency, alongside local campaigners from the charities RNIB and Guide Dogs.
During the walk along the length of Gosforth’s busy High Street, Catherine wore glasses that simulate common sight loss conditions to experience at firsthand some of the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people when out and about. These challenges include poorly-placed advertising boards, street furniture and inaccessible pedestrian crossings.
RNIB has been working with a number of local disability charities to finalise a street charter with Newcastle City Council, with the aim of creating a more accessible street environment for disabled people and other pedestrians. Catherine heard more about the benefits this would bring after her blindfold walk, during a discussion with RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer, Francesca Di Giorgio, local constituents and RNIB Volunteer Campaign Co-ordinators, Hazel Hyland and Angus Huntley, and Guide Dogs Engagement Officer, Linda Oliver.
‘I’m really grateful to the RNIB, and others, for organising this walk. Walking down Gosforth High Street – an area I know so well – whilst wearing the simulation glasses really did put the issues blind and partially sighted people face on a daily basis into perspective.
‘After attempting to use the busy crossings on Salters Road and Church Road whilst blindfolded, I can only imagine the challenges shared spaces present to people with sight loss. I’ve already written to the Transport Secretary about this experience and the need to rethink his Department’s approach to the idea of shared space.
‘I also look forward to continuing to work with RNIB, Guide Dogs and their volunteer campaigners to help progress the Newcastle Street Charter, ensuring our city’s streets are accessible and safer for everyone.’
Hazel Hyland, RNIB Volunteer Campaigner Co-ordinator, said:
‘I’m very pleased Catherine joined us on the blindfold walk for RNIB and other local disability groups.
‘As someone with sight loss, walking around the area has become increasingly challenging because of street clutter. Each time I walk into the area, I don’t know where or whether an advertising board will obstruct my route.
‘Catherine really listened to our concerns, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with her to launch the Newcastle Street Charter.’
More information about the RNIB’s ‘Who Put That There!’ campaign on the issues affecting blind and partially sighted people can be found here: www.rnib.org.uk/onmystreet