These were the words that I hope were echoing relentlessly in the ears of workers at the royal Borough of kensington and chelsea on thursday afternoon. About 80 blind and partially sighted people, including myself, congregated outside Kensington town Hall to protest against their proposed plans for a shared spaces scheme on exhibition road. this will mean a complete flat surface with no stepped kerbs or crossings and only tactiles to show where the pedestrian area ends and the road begins. What’s worse is, although the speed restriction will be lowered to 20 mph, it will be up to pedestrians and drivers to make eye contact when a pedestrian wants to cross the road.
This type of scheme is already in place in Brighton and aylesbury, to name but two places, and there were blind people at the protest speaking about how these areas are a no go zone now for blind and partially sighted people.
Despite members of the protest asking that a councillor or senior officer come and hear what we had to say as well as inviting them to put their point of view, no one came out of that building.
Yet another example of a threat to blind and partially sighted people’s independence in our increasingly visual world.
I don’t know where this riding roughshod over blind and partially sighted people will end. After all, other disabled groups are taken into account when new schemes or systems come into place but there seems to be total resistance to anything tactile, or god forbid, audible, that would help blind and partially sighted people.
I used to hold the opinion that it was up to me to fit into the sighted world, and I still think this, but its very hard when I am met with what feels like hostility to anything that might help me.
I have a horrible feeling that the Exhibition Road scheme will go ahead, and other councils are sure to follow.
Please, if you can, write to your MP to alert them to the dangers of this type of scheme. If there is a proposed scheme in your area, ask to see the Equality Impact Assessment. More information can be found at
http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/sharedstreets/ including a template to fill in to write directly to your MP.
We have to stop this blight in our environment. This type of scheme is much in evidence in Holland, but over there, they are now realising that it doesn’t work and they are reverting back to more traditional streets.