People with sight difficulties have been helping to show businesses some of the problems they face getting around in Worthing town centre.
A large contingent from several sight charities gathered in Warwick Street at lunchtime today for a street clutter event organised by RNIB volunteer campaign co-ordinator Brian Butcher and Sight Support Worthing HQ manager Frances Pritchard.
Working on behalf of their charities, Guide Dogs and 4Sight Vision Support, they personally invited more than 40 businesses to spend ten minutes experiencing what it is like for a blind or visually-impaired person to walk along the street.
They have been seeking to have a roughly 7ft-wide, clear walkway the length of the pedestrianised street and are working with traders to raise awareness of their reasons.
Brian said: “Overall, we were met with positive responses and a genuine desire to help.
“We are supporting Worthing Borough Council, which has made great headway in reducing the street clutter, and businesses have come on board.”
The council launched a trial street clutter scheme in September, asking traders to improve accessibility in Warwick Street by reducing the number of tables, chairs and A-boards placed outside.
The licensing pilot has been hailed a success, having led to a big reduction in street furniture, with the aim of ensuring a clear passage between the gutter lines on either side of the street.
Brian added: “What we want is for them to do it with some understanding of why they should be doing it, not just because of the threat of enforcement action.”
Rhys Spirovski, joint owner of The Burger and Brownie Co, in Stanford Square, off Warwick Street, was the first to try the special glasses provided.
He said: “It was an experience. It was nice to be able to appreciate what it is like. I had no concept of what it would be like. It was really disorientating, I felt I was going left all the time.
“It has been a nightmare down here the last few years. There are so many A-boards in the street. Our A-board is just inside Stanford Square and is the smallest in Warwick Street.”
His wife Peta, who also tried the glasses, added: “I felt like I was going really fast. I think this is a great idea. I don’t think we appreciate it enough.”
The Vintners pub is the only business to have paid for the licence in advance for ten years.
Manager Andria Smith said: “We fully support this scheme and have supported it all along. We always make sure we keep within the gutter line.
“There are so many people in Worthing with walking difficulties or buggies and this just makes the street nicer.”
Speaking afterwards, Barry Ward, chairman of Sight Support Worthing, said: "This has to be counted as a success. When was the last time, if ever, that so many sections of the community have got together to promote an initiative aimed at making life easier for the visually impaired (and others)?
"Several businesses supported the day and we would like to thank in particular The Burger and Brownie Co, The Vintner, Proto Restaurant Group, John Wildman & Sons butcher, Baltimore Guest House and The Moorings guest house."