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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Visually impaired people often just need a guiding arm

Just back from a trip to Liverpool to carry out a disability access audit for a company before they sign the lease on their office.
While travelling I sat next to a lady who was blind and we had a most interesting discussion. Well, actually she answered some questions I had in the back of my mind.
Most people just associate disability with wheelchair users: they forget those who can't hear or see to well, have learning difficulties, arthritis, are very short or tall, have no feelings through nerve loss or the many other impairments.
Some disabilities are not obvious and some that you think will be, aren't There are also different levels of disability. For example most people who are registered blind can actually see to some degree. They may just be able to see shapes and colours: might only be able to read at a few inches away from their face. I remember a friend who had a guide dog but could read at very close quarters. When she read the paper on the train she'd get comments - so she stopped reading in public. But on one occasion I recall her almost falling over on the beach when she just couldn't see a large piece of driftwood.
My co-traveller told me how difficult it was recognising steps and stairs. and that she'd fallen down a couple of times.There are special slabs that are used to tell blind people when they are approaching steps and stairs. These are called tactile slabs and the one for steps has a corduroy pattern. These are often used in the wrong place which could lead toreal problems. Only last week I saw the corduroy slabs running along a railway platform. This could be mistaken for a step with dire consequences.

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