We can all Clear Our Paths to make accessible communities.
Many of the temporary obstacles that cause difficulties for people when getting around our villages, towns and cities can be removed and prevented if we were all more conscious of our actions. The aim of the Clear Our Paths campaign is to raise awareness about the implications of temporary obstacles for people who are blind or vision impaired and encourage everyone to take action to remove them.
What do you mean by temporary obstacles?
Temporary obstacles are things that can be removed or prevented with ease which would create a safer environment for people who are blind or vision impaired but also for other pedestrians such as wheelchair users, parents with prams or those with other access needs.
- Cars parked on footpaths
- Dog fouling
- Wheelie bins
- Street furniture that is inappropriately placed
- Overhead branches
What can you do?
We can all be active bystanders through our own actions and words. For example, we can all start a positive conversation to encourage others to make sure our footpaths are clear and safe for everyone in our community.
Most people don’t intentionally take actions that would place someone with sight loss in danger, cause them harm or disrespect them, but we do need to be conscious that our actions can result in challenges for people with disabilities.
There are over 55,000 people living with sight loss in Ireland, so it is likely that someone in your own town or village is blind or vision impaired. It is also likely that someone with sight loss might visit your village, town, or city for a variety of reasons such as holidays, education or employment and it is possible that you wouldn’t realise someone has a vision impairment as they may not use mobility aids like white canes or guide dogs.
Below are some conversational points that you can use when chatting to your friends and family to help raise awareness of the temporary obstacles on our footpaths.
Cars parked on footpaths
Did you know that parking on a footpath, even if it is just for a minute, is unsafe as it could force people living with sight loss out onto the road and potentially into traffic?
Why don’t we all try to find a proper parking space? We may need to walk a little further but isn’t that better than making someone who is blind or vision impaired walk onto a road? Even if it is a quiet road.
You could tell another person: I was reading about the Vision Ireland campaign to Clear Our Paths and they mentioned the challenges for people living with sight loss caused by dog fouling on paths. Imagine if you had a white cane to help you navigate and it went into dog poo but you didn’t realise until it was all over your hands when you are folding up your cane. It must be so frustrating and really unhygienic. Do you have a bag with you to pick up after your dog?
Did you know that wheelie bins can be a major obstacle for people who are blind or vision impaired when walking on the footpath? We can help reduce the risk of accidents by placing them up against our wall or fence, or by taking them inside as soon as they are emptied, rather than leaving them in the middle of the footpath.
I am going to mention it to our bin company too so they can return the bin to the spot beside the wall/fence once emptied.
While eating at a café, you notice your friends shopping bags are beside the table and could be a trip hazard, so you could mention to them that they might put their bags under the table, as you have done, as they may cause injury to someone with a cane or a guide dog user.
While at your local café you notice the tables and chairs are taking up the majority of the footpath right outside the door and window. This situation could force people who are blind or vision impaired to move out closer to the road rather than remaining safely on the inside of the footpath. You might mention this to a staff member in the café to pass it on to the manager, or, you could ask to speak to the manager. You might mention you are aware it can be an issue because you have seen the Vision Ireland Clear Our Paths campaign and let them know that Vision Ireland is always willing to offer advice and guidance to businesses.
While over at a friend’s house for a BBQ, you notice the big tree in their front garden has low hanging branches protruding onto the footpath on the outside of their garden wall or fence. This can be a hazard for someone who is blind or vision impaired. as it can cause injury to their face and/or eyes which could be very dangerous. Cutting a few branches off to ensure it is higher than head height is important to ensure people living with sight loss can travel independently around their own village, town or city. Try mentioning this to your friend.
Join Vision Ireland’s local advocacy networks to get involved. Call the Vision Ireland Policy and Advocacy Team on 01 830 70 33 or email [email protected]