At our recent AGM Jean Lawrence the acting chair of the Lewes Area Access Group told us a bit about their work. She herself works with visually impaired people and helps them to orientate themselves about, through training with white sticks etc. She is passionate about improving the physical urban environment for blind or partially sighted people.
The LAAG meets regularly to raise issues where access could be improved and to work with the authorities to share their experiences to improve the town for everyone. They greatly miss their Access Officer Sue Dunkley, made redundant recently from LDC. They cannot locate any replacement for the vital role she played in advising the council, as well as liaising with the public over disability access matters. She was able to make the links with departments such as highways when problems were identified. Jean has tried contacting the council but is not clear who is being passed any correspondence and if it is being logged anywhere.
Jean reminded everyone that access affects everyone at some point, whether mums with prams, older people (we will all get older eventually and face cognitive as well as physical decline), carers have valuable insights into where problems lie, also those people who may have less visible impairment. The LAAG will work with the LTP and the Sussex Past heritage interpretation project to seek ways of improving information for the public and to help develop the capacity of the group to support itself in the absence of ongoing help from the authorities.
The changes made to Cliffe High Street are a poor example for disabled people, in fact many local visually impaired people will avoid it due to the cars parking on the pavements, the café overspills and the uneven cobbles. There are many issues that the LAAG hope to raise with the developers of North Street around the concept of Shared Space and they will seek to have input at the right time to show how this is not a solution to the blind or partially sighted, more of an additional barrier to independence.
Contact the group via Jean at j.lawrence@seeAbilility.org