Brian Butcher, 59, who led yesterday’s event in Warwick Street, Worthing, is a trustee of Sight Support Worthing, as well as the lead community connector at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and a volunteer for Guide Dogs.
He said: “For years, we have been campaigning for ‘street clutter’ to be controlled, and the reason for that is we spend our lives helping people to fight their isolation. Because if you lose your sight, it is very easy to stay indoors as that is a safe place to be, but that then causes isolation which causes lots of other issues as well.
“What we are trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get out and about easier by taking away any barriers that exist.
“If you don’t have very good sight, even navigating a pavement is really tough, so when you put ‘street clutter’ like a-boards, barriers, tables, and chairs, it makes it even more difficult.”
The Sight Support Worthing event had ‘simulation specs’ for people to wear and take part in a guided sight walk to witness what it would be like to walk through a cluttered street with a visual impairment.
Councillor Kevin Jenkins, who represents Gaisford Ward on Worthing Borough Council, was there to show his support to the event.
He said: “Sight Support is important for everybody’s purposes, not just around sight but around accessibility generally in our town and we want to make sure that Worthing town centre is accessible to everybody.
“Events like this are really valuable to help people understand the differences they need to make to be able to support people so they can access their premises and make their way around the town centre.”
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, also attended. He said: “Worthing has always been a very hospitable and a very welcoming place and we want to make sure that it stems to absolutely everybody regardless of their disabilities or any other background, so it is really important that we have events like this to just remind people to watch out for those with disabilities and just to think before they put something out which could be a real hazard and will deter people from coming here.”
After the event ended, Brian, who is visually impaired himself, felt that it had been ‘a real success’.
He added: “We’ve started the conversation, in terms of people understanding what it’s like for people with sight loss.
“I also find it very humbling that people are willing to understand, we’ve had lots of very meaningful conversations with businesses in terms of just how difficult it is, so I think it’s been a real success, we’ve started the conversation so let’s see where it ends up.”