City Council takes steps to understand challenges for people with visual impairments

Representatives from Gloucester City Council joined the Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council on a tour of the city wearing simulation glasses to find out about the challenges faced by people with visual impairments navigating around Gloucester.

The Mayor of Gloucester, Councillor Howard Hyman, the Sheriff, Councillor Joanne Brown and the leader of Gloucester City Council, Councillor Richard Cook, were among those who took part in the walk.

They were given simul-specs, which are glasses that replicate different eye conditions, to experience what it’s like for those with sight issues navigating around Gloucester.

The walk was led by Alun Davies, Wayne Hands and Julie Stephens, from the Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council, who were joined by Julie’s guide dog Heidi. They spoke about some of the challenges and wider experiences of those who are blind, partially sighted or vision impaired.

Wayne Hands, from the Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council, said “I was really impressed with how all attending Gloucester City staff really engaged in the event and it was evident from their summaries afterwards that they had a better understanding of some of the difficulties people with visual impairments face on a daily basis when visiting the city centre.

“A special mention goes out to Mayor Howard Hyman who unbeknownst to him selected one of the hardest simul-specs to experience. His entire vision was obscured whilst wearing the opaque glasses which only allow the wearer to see rough shapes and light and shade.”

Julie Stephens commended that the council officer who guided her throughout the city centre, saying they had “pointed out obstacles I never knew existed”, and commenting that “the regeneration of Kings Square was absolutely fascinating. Heidi navigates me around all the obstacles, so I never know they are there. These are truly exciting times and I am very honoured to be a part of this work.”

Councillor Richard Cook, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “I am grateful to Alun, Wayne and Julie for coming along and facilitating the walk which highlighted the challenges faced by those with visual impairments. Gloucester City Council will continue to work alongside our partners to enhance accessibility as part of our work towards building a greener, fairer, better Gloucester.”

The session saw the group discuss changes that could be made to make Gloucester more accessible for those who are blind, partially sighted or vision impaired. Work is already under way in partnership with the Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council to make the city council’s website easier to navigate, and to consider how the experience for blind, partially sighted and vision impaired visitors to our museums can be improved.

Alun Davies, organiser from the Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “Thomas Pocklington Trust is delighted to support Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council and Gloucester City Council in their very positive work. We support ten Sight loss Councils across the country, and they are all working in a collaborative way with a range of partners including councils to improve the lives of people who are blind or partially-sighted.”

From left to right: Melissa Joice, Alun Davies, Julie Stephens, Cllr Richard Cook, Leader of Gloucester City Council, Bev Headman-Fearon, Cllr Howard Hyman, Mayor of Gloucester, Cllr Joanne Brown Deputy Mayor and Sheriff of Gloucester, Philip Walker, Jon McGinty, Abi Marshall, and Liam Moran.