As the secretary of South Tyneside Visually Impaired Council, a colleague contacted me to ask our organisation to raise the concerns of visually impaired people (VIPs) who had first hand knowledge of the difficulty posed by the lack of colour contrast and changes of levels at the newly refurbished Market Place.
VIPs have also noted the lack of contrast between the concrete seating, metal poles and paving in the same area.
I emailed Coun John Wood, lead member for Planning and Major Developments, who phoned me on Sunday and informed me that both he and Coun John Anglin, lead member for Regeneration, will investigate.
I am greatly encouraged that Coun Wood responded so quickly and he has in the past been very supportive of issues that affect people with disabilities. We are also grateful that Coun Jeffrey Milburn highlighted this matter in the Shields Gazette recently.
Building Regulations are an essential resource when designing for everyone, including people with disabilities.While most people are aware of the need for ramps, for example, sometimes guidance when designing with VIPs in mind is considered just that ‘guidance’ and may not be given the priority it deserves. It is vital that wheelchair users and others with mobility problems have access but wherever possible no one should be excluded from accessing public spaces in safety.
I am hopeful that by working with the Local Authority and the designers that this 365 project can be the success everyone hopes it will be and further accidents can be avoided.