Published on 12th October 2021

Councillors and officers from Cheltenham Borough Council picture with members of Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council

Council members and officers joined Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council today to experience a simul-specs walk around the town centre.

A group of council staff and councillors have been invited by Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council to have a brief insight into what is it like to navigate the town centre on foot for people who have a visual impairment. 

Wearing a pair of simulation glasses, which simulate a particular eye condition and with a white cane for assistance, the group were asked to make their way from the Municipal Offices around the town centre. 

Each participant was accompanied by a member of the Sight Loss Council, with people with complete blindness joining the group to talk about some of the challenges they face, for example navigating street furniture such as A-boards and outdoor tables and chairs.

Alun Davies, organiser, from the Thomas Pocklington Trust said: “Thomas Pocklington Trust is delighted to support Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council and Cheltenham Borough Council in their very positive work. We support ten Sight loss Councils across the country and they are all working in a collaborative way with a range of partners including councils to improve the lives of people who are blind or partially-sighted.”

Ann Lightfoot, from Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council, who is also a Cheltenham resident, said: “Although this seems in many ways a fun activity, it is a great way for people to get a taste of the difficulties faced by people with sight loss in Cheltenham and the problems they face on a daily basis negotiating the pavement hazards.”

Cllr Martin Horwood, cabinet member for customer and regulatory services, continued: “My mother suffered from severe macular degeneration so I was particularly struck by how the glasses replicated how sight loss impairs people’s everyday lives and ability to move about safely. Today’s experience was really important. We need to be constantly reminded to take these issues into account in all our council policies and I’m pleased that we’re acting on them in our planning right now.”

The feedback from the session will be used to inform future policies around urban design and improvements in accessibility.

One area of the town centre which should soon see improvement, subject to planning permission from Cheltenham Borough Council and permission from Gloucester Diocese, is the area around the Cheltenham Minster (known as St Mary’s Churchyard). Plans include resurfacing paths to ensure a much safer and smoother access, and improved lighting.   

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Image single use only: Group photo of Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council members with Councillors and officers at the Municipal Offices