When EYECAN contacted us to run a road safety campaign for the visually impaired, we hadn’t realised the kinds of issues her clients faced when getting around the Island. We were invited to one of their meetings so they could give us some perspective and we filled up two sheets of A4 with road safety issues they are experiencing, we actually had to stop them giving us material as we realised we wouldn’t be able to cover everything.
We were also surprised to find out that more than 2000 islanders are affected by this problem and face daily difficulties when using our roads. Many of their anecdotes were quite shocking.
This is the background why the Panel decided to launch the ‘Take Another Hard Look’ campaign on ‘sight awareness day’ Thursday 14th October.
EYECAN Members will be in St Helier and Les Quennevais on that day, helping to raise awareness of their issues during that day. They are also forming a Choir on this day made up of sight impaired members, staff and volunteers. If you fancy getting involved, why not give them a call?
The ‘focus’ of our campaign is aimed mainly at car drivers, but to be honest we need to talk to every road user as this very vulnerable group of road users need help from all of us. We need to keep an ‘EYE’ out for them and very much fits in with our generic campaign that we have been running for three years ‘Let’s look out for each other’.
It’s important to realise that many people with sight loss will not necessarily be obvious to us. Some people may have a guide dog or use a white cane, but for many other people sight loss is an invisible disability. Learning to live with impaired sight frequently involves a long emotional journey. It may take a very long time for a person to accept their sight loss and it commonly takes years before people feel comfortable enough to draw attention to their impaired sight by using a white cane. However demonstrating common courtesy to all pedestrians will make things easier for everyone.
There are many types of sight loss but we should like to raise awareness of three kinds in particular.
Central Vision Loss:
This is the most common type of sight loss in which people are unable to see what is directly in front of them, though they can still see what is to the sides. If you are walking toward someone who has this type of vision loss, the likelihood is that they won’t see you until the last moment. People with this type of sight loss won’t be able to see obstacles in their path until the last moment either.
People with this type of sight loss may see only what is straight in front of them and might not be able to see what is to the sides, above and below. They will also have very poor night vision. People with tunnel vision probably won’t see anything approaching from the sides, and will have particularly poor vision at night or in poor light conditions.
Blurred or Patchy Vision:
People with this type of sight loss can see all around them but everything they see appears indistinct or patchy.
What can YOU do to help?
Please take more care when approaching all pedestrian areas and junctions. The person trying to cross the road may be sight impaired and will not easily to see you. Also electric vehicles, which are very quiet, may not be noticed by people with combined sight and hearing loss.
You probably do know you shouldn’t be cycling on pavements and precincts unless signed you can do so and that most ‘No Entry’ signs mean ‘No Entry’ for cyclists. Even when you are cycling legally, please bear in mind that some pedestrians will not see or hear you coming. Speeding around, or cutting across, people who are sight impaired, some of whom may also have hearing loss, may cause them (or you if they lash out because they are startled) to have an injury, and may badly affect their confidence.
When you are on scooters or skate boards should also bear these same things in mind.
Mobility Scooter users, please also take care around all pedestrians when you are on the pavements and precincts, as some may not be able to see you coming.
Please don’t congest the white lines along the centre of King Street as these are in place to assist people with sight loss. When a person doesn’t make way for you please don’t assume they are being rude. They might not have seen you.
Please understand that when sandwich boards are frequently placed in different positions they may cause accidents to people with impaired sight who do not expect them to be in their path. Also any scaffolding around businesses should be brightly marked to make it noticeable and prevent accidents.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
For further information go to www.eyecan.je