Kirky town centre is still no-go area

A disabled rights campaign group has expressed frustration at the lack of progress being made to allow visually impaired people to get around Kirkintilloch Town Centre.

Sandy Taylor

With businesses such as cafes permitted to place extra furniture in the street to serve customers outdoors, people with visual impairments have been finding it much harder to navigate.

Sandy Taylor, chairman of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum, explained the difficulties he has been having with East Dunbartonshire Council.

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He said: “Over the past five months I have regularly contacted council officers, pointing out the problems posed by pavement clutter and its impact on those with sight loss and other disabilities.

“In particular, I highlighted the problems relating to cafe furniture, which is preventing access, due to tables and chairs being placed indiscriminately on our pavements, without due consideration of the navigational needs of blind, visually impaired and other disabled people.

“With no screening around these tables it is impossible to observe social distancing and with no clear corridor along the building line, Cowgate is a no-go area for many disabled people.

“Despite several letters stressing these concerns, council officers failed to respond.

“On August 30, following a letter to EDC chief executive officer Gerry Cornes, I received an assurance that adjustments would be made to ensure those with sight loss would gain access, as my suggestions would be included in an updated set of guidelines.”

However, Sandy says there has been no improvement in the situation despite these assurances and claims the council is breaching Scottish Government guidelines as well as the Equality Act 2010 as visually impaired people are unable to visit various facilities such as the library, post office, health centre, pharmacies and shops.

One of the people Sandy contacted was joint council leader Andrew Polson, who insists action is being taken.

Councillor Polson said: “I can confirm I received Mr Taylor’s recent e-mail and am in the process of responding directly.

“The council has been actively working on this issue, liaising with businesses where it has been identified that they do not currently comply with the updated guidance.

“The council is looking to support businesses in these challenging economic times as much as possible.

“As such the council will be assisting them with the procedures required to allow a full and thorough assessment of the changes that have been made, while ensuring that town centres are accessible to all.”