Three MPs have participated in an event to highlight the difficulties faced by blind and partially sighted people using public transport.
Emma Reynolds, Eleanor Smith, and Pat McFadden, took part in the event at Wolverhampton train station, organised by the Black Country Sight Loss Council, in advance of the forthcoming refurbishment of the station.
Sight Loss Councils are voluntary groups of blind and partially sighted people from local communities, currently being set up by the Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) around the UK. As a support and advocacy network, Sight Loss Councils work collaboratively with local organisations, authorities and service providers to improve the lives of those with sight loss.
During the event, the MPs were asked to walk around the station, whilst simulating degrees of visual impairment. They navigated the station independently with canes and glasses to distort their vision and imitate partial sight loss. They were then blindfolded to mimic full blindness and were accompanied by a guide to help them get around safely.
The MPs said that the experience made them recognise the dangers and disorientation faced by blind and partially sighted people when using public transport.
Eleanor Smith, MP for Wolverhampton South West, said that she found the experience “a powerful lesson”, while Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, felt that she gained insight into the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people every day.
Mark Sanders, volunteer member of Birmingham Sight Loss Council, initially identified the issue of a lack of tactile paving being considered in the plans for the refurbishment. He said of the event:
“The three MPs were clearly quite shocked that such fundamental tactile paving were still missing and were out of scope of the redevelopment.”
Chair of the Black Country Sight Loss Council Joshua Feehan said:
“It was great to raise awareness with the local MPs on the issue of tactile paving and how important it is for blind and partially sighted people. We want to ensure that the redevelopment of the station takes in to account the need for tactile paving on the platforms. We will be working with West Midlands Trains and the MPs to support a bid to fund for this work to be done.”
After the event, the MPs said that their experience will be valuable when making recommendations for the forthcoming refurbishment of Wolverhampton train station, ensuring that tactile surfaces including tactile paving are considered within the plans.
The event aimed to increase awareness around the importance of accessibility on public transport for blind and partially sighted people. TPT hopes MPs and representatives from service providers will undertake similar invaluable processes when designing public services, to highlight the issues and opportunities around safety and inclusivity for people with sight loss.
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Image credit: Wolverhampton Express & Star, Tim Thursfield