Consult us over shared streets, say disability charities

A coalition of charities is launching a campaign warning of the dangers posed by "shared surfaces" to people with disabilities.

Newbury's shared surface city centre
Newbury's shared surface city centre

The coalition, led by blind charity Guide Dogs, will be writing to the Government and local authorities urging them to consult with disability charities before introducing such surfaces.

Shared surfaces are streets where kerbs are eliminated and priority between vehicles and pedestrians is decided by eye contact. Places with shared surfaces include Ashford, Leamington Spa, Coventry, Hull, Dundee, Newport, and the City of London

A spokesman for Guide Dogs said the charities, which include Mencap, RNIB and Arthritis Care, recognise that shared surfaces look better and are easier for people in wheelchairs. But he said many existing schemes created extra dangers for all disabled people.

"Blind people find where they are by finding where the kerb is," he said. "It is very difficult to train a guide dog to understand the difference between pavements and roads when there is no visual difference. The blurring of boundaries also makes it difficult for people with learning difficulties to judge which is a safe area and which is an unsafe area."

He said Guide Dogs was working with other charities on designs which would preserve the advantages of shared surfaces but eliminate their dangers to disabled people.

"If we are able to represent this as a joined-up approach it will have a greater chance of success," he said.

Guide Dogs' director of public policy, Tom Pey, said the joint statement emphasised the strength of feeling in the sector. "It's time for central and local government, street designers and planners to sit up and take notice," he said.

The disability organisations who have signed the shared surfaces statement are:

Arthritis Care, Canine Partners, DeafBlind UK, Disability Wales, Dog Aid, Dogs for the Disabled, Guide Dogs, Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee Northern Ireland (IMTAC), Joint Committee for the Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People, Joint Committee for the Mobility of Disabled People, MENCAP, National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People, National Federation of the Blind UK, National League of the Blind and Disabled, RNIB, RADAR, RNID, Tendring Community Transport, The UK Disabled People's Council

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