Streetwise: Problems for sight-impaired residents

I write in connection with problems encountered by visually impaired people endeavouring to maintain their independence and move freely around the town. Everyone’s residual sight is different and dependent on the light available.

However, very few individuals are totally sightless - the state of my residual sight is extremely limited and I would describe it as looking out on a very foggy day.

I perceive light, but the visual field is nonexistent - so, in short, it’s not a lot of use.

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My mobility is greatly aided by my dog or sighted help, but it is my view that individuals should be encouraged to self-mobilise.

The main problems to this, especially around the town, are: narrow pavements and pavement parking.

In training, we are taught to negotiate these obstacles by taking the dog up to it and if it will not navigate past moving out onto the road, ensuring, of course, that there is no oncoming traffic.

The problem with my sight now is that I don’t always know exactly where I am; I’m fully aware of the route I wish to take, but the dog will give the obstacle a wide birth, on occasions nearly crossing the road.

During this procedure, cars may drive up the road and although I hear the engine, to locate the exact position of the car is difficult.

If I’m unsure where the car is, I will drop the harness and extend my right arm signalling that I have a problem.

The other day whilst going home after shopping, a car come up the road and parked. I explained that I thought I was going to be involved in an accident and was told by the driver that they were parking. Obviously I didn’t, and had no ability to know, what the intentions were.

It’s a terrible thing to be disorientated like that, and I feel that drivers in general should be more mindful of this type of problem.

Pavement parking also damages the surface of the pathway and, presumably, this area is not made for parking. Apparently, according to a local PCSO, cars can obstruct the pavement if they do not leave a 1.5 metre gap between the vehicle and the wall/hedge/fence.

I don’t know if anybody has been fined for this offence but there’s always a first time.

Wheelie bins too present difficulties.

They can be treated as an off-kerb by the dog, but if he thinks there is enough room to get by they can come tumbling onto the pavement.

I don’t know of a possible solution for this, as obviously people are at work, and the bin men are under pressure to get their rounds done as quickly as possible.

Other problems include a-boards (pavement signs) which can sometimes prove a trip hazard.

Probably the greatest safety problem in the town is St Lawrence Street, which is very narrow and has pavement on either side.

Cars travel down here at quite a lick on occasions, and, if you’re standing and walking on the wrong side of the out-butting by the Indian Restaurant, I would question whether you would be visible to oncoming traffic.

In my opinion, the sooner this road is closed to traffic and the car park entrances remodelled the better.

Finally, on a slightly lighter note, whilst walking home from work on one occasion I found a car, engine running, parked outside Achurch and Son - now Costa Coffee.

There was no one in the car; I leaned into the car and switched the engine off.

I’ve never seen anyone leave a shop as quickly; they asked what I was about. Unfortunately the dog is unable to drive, I replied, and further it is illegal to leave a motor vehicle with a running engine, and lastly you’re lucky it is me because I won’t be able to drive it away.

One of our former doctors thought that the dog was responsible for getting me across the road and knew when the lights changed at the crossing.

I assured them this was not the case - would that it were and also that they could read bus numbers.

Keith Kelsey

Elmhirst Road, Horncastle