Northumberland Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet member for Local Services, did a blindfold walk around Morpeth on Monday (17 July 2017) to highlight the challenges blind and partially sighted people face navigating the area.

Councillor Sanderson was invited on the walk by local residents of the Northumberland Low Vision Action Group and RNIB Campaigners Bob Potter, Joyce Anderson and Chris Greethe to welcome him to his new role.

The group was supported by Francesca Di Giorgio, RNIB’s Regional Campaigns Officer in the North East of England and Linda Oliver, Guide Dogs Engagement Officer in North East and Cumbria.

During the walk Councillor Sanderson wore simulation spectacles which simulate three of the most common sight conditions: age related macular degeneration, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa.

In January 2017 Northumberland County Council created new guidelines addressing street obstructions. It suggested a minimum of two clear metres of pavement should be kept clear on main pedestrian routes. During the walk the group witnessed a number of advertising boards that significantly breeched this guidance, putting them at risk of colliding with the boards.

Councillor Sanderson said: “I’m grateful to RNIB for arranging the ‘blindfold’ walk in Morpeth. Walking around streets I know very well, while wearing the simulation spectacles, really put the issues blind and partially sighted people face into perspective.

“Northumberland County Council looks forward to working with RNIB, Guide Dogs and Northumberland Low Vision Action Group to ensure Northumberland is accessible to everyone. The council is committed to implementing the guidelines on street obstructions and will consult with local blind and partially sighted people ahead of designing any significant town centre improvement schemes.”

Joyce Anderson, who is registered blind, said: “We’re very pleased Councillor Sanderson joined us on the blindfold walk to see first-hand the challenges people with sight loss face. RNIB estimates that by 2020 there will be over 13,000 people living with some form of sight loss in Northumberland [1]. It’s vital such residents are consulted at a very early stage in the design process when changes are being planned for any of our town and village centres.”

“All blind and partially sighted people have the right to walk around safely and independently. Councillor Sanderson really listened to our concerns and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with him to ensure Northumberland is accessible and welcoming to all.”

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