Stuart McMillan MSP spoke with the charity Guide Dogs Scotland at the SNP conference about the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets, including pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.
Pavements blocked by parked cars or street clutter such as wheelie bins and overhanging branches can force pedestrians to walk into the road, putting them in danger of oncoming traffic.
Shared space streets, where vital safety features such as kerbs and controlled crossings are removed, can also be dangerous and disorientating for people with sight loss.
To illustrate these risks, Guide Dogs asked Stuart McMillan to take a trip down memory lane and play their ‘Navigation Game’ – a take on the classic final challenge of the Generation Game – memorising the hazards that a guide dog owner might encounter on a typical journey.
Guide Dogs are calling for action on the most common dangers for people with sight loss, including a new law limiting pavement parking to areas determined by the local council, action from local authorities on street clutter and a safety review of existing shared space schemes.
Stuart McMillan MSP said:
“Obstacles on our pavements can be hard enough to navigate for people with sight, so imagine how problematic that makes taking a walk down a high street for people with physical disabilities, including visual impairment issues.
“On-street advertising and pavement parking force people with sight loss onto the road to pass, or can lead to them avoiding walking through certain areas altogether. This can causes them to become isolated and housebound simply because drivers or organisations are not being mindful of keeping pavements clear for all pedestrians.”
Niall Foley, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs Scotland, commented:
“The street environment has a huge impact on people with sight loss. When a street is blocked with obstacles or lacks vital safety features, it can make the difference between getting out and about with confidence or feeling forced to stay at home.
“We’re calling for action to tackle the most common hazards that affect blind and partially sighted people on their local streets: pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.”