RNIB Cymru is campaigning for a new vision for city and town centres across Wales to ensure that blind and partially sighted people are considered as new changes are made - particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The charity is also calling for an end to avoidable sight loss in Wales, accessible information practices to be embedded into public health communications, an end to the 'postcode lottery' of Vision Rehabilitation Officer availability, and a reform in the way the public sector engages people with sight loss.
The sight loss charity is urging the next Welsh Government to ensure city centres don't become no-go areas for blind and partially sighted people as the country rebuilds in the wake of the aforementioned pandemic.
The charity is launching its manifesto ahead of the 2021 Senedd elections to coincide with World Sight Day on October 8th. Based on the testimonies and lived experiences of real people from across Wales, the manifesto calls for a renewed focus on public spaces, living environments and transport to ensure that people with sight loss are able to live, travel and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.
"These are long standing issues facing blind and partially sighted people which have been exacerbated by the impact of coronavirus," said RNIB Cymru Director Ansley Workman. "We now have a real chance to embed accessibility into the heart of every Welsh town and city, creating environments that are inclusive for everyone."
At the height of the pandemic the Welsh Government allocated funding to make significant changes to street layouts and public spaces in towns and cities across Wales as part of the long-term recovery strategy. But many of these changes were made without consideration of the potential impact they would have on people with disabilities.
Tafsila Khan, 35 from Cardiff, is a mother of three with sight loss who has had problems accessing the city centre since new measures were introduced. She said:
"Before lockdown I considered myself very independent. I have a degenerative eye condition which means my vision is very limited, but I have always loved going into the city centre with my kids, to meet friends or to visit the RNIB Cymru offices and didn't often experience problems.
"But now everything is upside down. I can't see the markings painted on the street so don't know if I'm socially distancing properly. There are so many new obstacles that I am worried about injuring myself. And shared pedestrian and cycle lanes are inaccessible and dangerous for people with sight loss. It makes me feel less able to get out and about. I feel like my independence has been taken away."
Securing accessible environments and transport options is one of five key asks RNIB Cymru is setting forward in its manifesto. The charity is also calling on the next Welsh Government to:
The manifesto will be launched at an online hustings event featuring a panel discussion with representatives from Wales' three leading political parties, who will be outlining their party's manifesto and answering questions about what they would do as the next Welsh Government to break down barriers for blind and partially sighted people in Wales.
The event will be held at 10.30am on October 8th via Zoom and is open to all. Attendees are encouraged to submit their questions in advance.
"The 121,000 people living with sight loss across Wales must be supported and empowered to live fully, healthy, independent lives," continued Ansley Workman. "We want to continue working with the next Welsh Government to create lasting legacies that benefit our whole society."
For information on how to join the hustings event, please contact Nathan.firstname.lastname@example.org