The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has launched a nationwide awareness campaign urging people not to place obstacles in the way of people who are blind and vision impaired.
The sight loss agency has released a video showing the difficulties people with impaired vision face on a daily basis as they try to navigate their way through towns and cities countrywide.
Obstacles include cars parked on footpaths, bins in the middle of paths, overhanging branches, dog litter and more recently election posters - all of which pose huge problems and potential danger for people with impaired sight.
Kevin Kelly of NCBI says: “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 unwittingly on footpaths by the public. 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.
“Currently, some of our election candidates and their parties are showing a blatant disregard for electoral law and in particular the safety of people with impaired vision. Election posters are required to be a minimum of 2.1 metres (7 ft) from the ground. The NCBI has seen multiple examples where this requirement is being ignored in the race for votes. There is much public discussion around the erection of election posters and how unsightly they look and how unenvironmentally friendly they are; but perhaps another argument in favour of a national ban should be the danger they pose to people with impaired vision.”
Jackie McBrearty, NCBI service user explains: “Approaching the summer months, the main obstacle on the footpath for me is overhanging branches of trees and hedges. In Sligo town’s main street and housing estates, this is a particular problem. It’s an awful shock when I unexpectedly get scrapped by a branch. On rubbish collection day, bins are often left randomly on the footpath after they have been emptied. This makes it harder for me to walk around.”
The sole aim of our campaign is to encourage everyone to play their part and keep footpaths clear of temporary obstacles which have a significant negative impact on the almost 55,000 people living with sight loss in Ireland. Simple actions such as cleaning up after their dogs, respecting the traffic laws and not parking on footpaths, taking in their bins after collection and trimming overhanging branches. These are not onerous requests, and the difference they make to someone with sight loss is impossible to quantify.