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Street Clutter

SRSB's Request for Less ‘Street Clutter’

Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) hears about the issue of ‘street clutter’ from our clients on a regular basis. Street clutter on Sheffield’s pavements is on the increase and includes parked cars, signs, A-Boards, wheelie bins, bikes and roadworks which all conspire to make our city’s pavements more hazardous for everyone and not just our visually impaired clients.

Photo of a sign on a pavement

The Implications

We welcome recent discussions about Sheffield City Council introducing new powers to tackle pavement parking, but we want to raise awareness of this issue from the point of view of its clients with sight loss, whilst also highlighting that street clutter presents obstacles and potential trip hazards for wheelchair users, people pushing prams and elderly people, for example.

We are appealing to the people and organisations of Sheffield who share their city with over 3,800 of our charity’s visually impaired clients to consider how their actions might cause significant challenges, by sharing some stories from their clients.

Joanne Ardern, Deputy General Manager at SRSB and RSS, explains, “We realise that people and organisations do not deliberately set out to cause problems for our clients. People would most likely be really upset to think that they might have caused a problem, but many of us who are lucky enough to have good sight or mobility may take it for granted and just don’t think about consequences for others. We just want to raise awareness and work together to make Sheffield’s streets and pavements safer for everyone.”

Photo of a van parked on a pavement  

Pavement Parking

Pavement parking is certainly an issue for our clients. Sometimes, motorists may think they are being helpful by parking off the road, or sometimes it may be that they just don’t think at all. In either case, they may not realise the impact it can have. From the point of view of people with sight loss, SRSB urges people to consider that by parking on a pavement it blocks access. The person with sight loss may have to step out into the road to get around the vehicle, and with little or no sight, may then be in danger of not being able to see other moving vehicles.

Mick is one of our clients with no sight at all. He lives in Sheffield and worked at home during the lockdowns like many of us, and needed to exercise each day like many of us. However, Mick had to carefully work out his walking route, choosing a specific walk that he knew was less likely to have cars parked on pavements. This story is not lockdown specific as Mick explains, 

 

Photo of a car parked on a pavment  “Vehicles parked on pavements seem to have become more common. They range from bicycles tethered to posts, to cars vans and lorries which push any passing pedestrian into adjacent walls, hedges, or protruding boxes like those used for temporary deposition of mail, or pay points for parking. Please think about pedestrians if you are blocking any pavement. 

“Street planners also need to think carefully about the positioning of lamp posts, telegraph poles etc which at times appear randomly placed. 

“As a street walker averaging at least two miles a day, I would also ask people who have hedges and other plants overhanging pavements to think about regular pruning so that visually impaired passers-by don’t impale themselves on thorny or wet overhangs which of course get lower when it rains”.

Photo of some concrete blocks in Sheffield city centre  

Outside Hospitality and Other Obstacles

Recently, as many businesses have had to open outside spaces, people with sight loss may find that their memorised or familiar routes have suddenly changed. We completely understand that everyone has had to adapt, but their request is that organisations take the situations highlighted in this story into consideration.

Also, other obstacles that are introduced to deal with one problem, can raise another, as one of our clients highlighted when he asked us to help after falling over a concrete block that appeared in Sheffield town centre. He has a vision impairment and was unable to discern the difference between the grey of the blocks and the grey of the pavement. SRSB worked with the Sheffield Access Liaison Group and Sheffield City Council raising concerns and working together to find a solution. The council then applied high visibility tape to the blocks.

Photo of some bins across a pavement  

Wheelie Bins

Bin day can be a problem too - imagine being faced with bins strewn across the pavement when you can’t see them, and being forced out on to a road to avoid them, or rubbish that is piled up around them.

Photo of one of SRSB's clients bruised face after a fall  

A-Boards and Temporary Signs

A-Boards can pop up unexpectedly in the middle of a pavement. Similarly, temporary road signs are also an issue and recently, one of our blind clients fell over one of these. The photo shows Gail after the fall. 

Gail explains what happened, “I am a long cane user with practically no vision, only light perception. As I was walking in my neighbourhood and swung around the corner of a road, I found myself catapulted face down on the ground. The metal sign had legs either side which came right out, so the cane swung underneath and back out, not detecting it at all and my foot caught throwing me face down on to the ground.

“I am an experienced long cane user and the cane usually detects around 95 per cent of street clutter, which is getting more and more common now.”

Gail is currently in discussion with the company who put the sign out, and they have taken her concerns very seriously, so we are optimistic that solutions suggested by Gail and conversations with the organisation will have a positive outcome for everyone.

Photo of someone blindfolded being led by a sighted guide as part of the training exercise 

Visual Impairment Awareness Training

SRSB wants to raise awareness of how the points raised in this story affect people and to let the local community know that it offers Visual Impairment Awareness Training for organisations and their teams. Being better informed and putting yourself in the place of people with other challenges is an enlightening and rewarding experience. Great things can be achieved when we work together, so please get in touch with us if you would like to find out more. SRSB can tailor the training to suit your particular organisation and your budget, and welcome discussions about how collectively, everyone can make a difference.

 Photo of some people sitting around a table talking  

SRSB also liaise with Disability Sheffield and the Access Liaison Group who work to raise to awareness of these issues for people with other disabilities too.

Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB) and its division Rotherham Sight & Sound (RSS) provide services for people of all ages with sight loss in Sheffield and people with sight and/or hearing loss in Rotherham.

You can contact SRSB on 0114 272 2757 or email info@srsb.org.uk  

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