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THE new Market Place has been criticised for its lack of accessibility for visually impaired people.
Local charity, Wiltshire Sight, have highlighted a number of problems with the Market Place that could cause confusion and be potential hazards. These issues include a lack of colour contrast between the stone benches and paving; a flower pot placed in the wrong location and a hazardous road crossing.
Senior sight advisor for Wiltshire Sight, Sarah O’Rourke, met with Deputy Mayor of Melksham, cllr Jon Hubbard, and cllr Martin Pain, to explain the difficulties and to demonstrate them with a pair of glasses that simulate being visually impaired.
“Although the Market Place looks appealing, it’s not quite so accessible for the visually-impaired individuals living in Melksham and the many more who visit the town,” said Sarah.
“The Market Place presents a number of challenges for those with sight loss including the following:
• The lack of colour contrast between the seating and pavement causes them to blend together.
• A flower pot positioned on the tactile paved crossing (next to the taxi rank) exposes the edge of the pot, this could cause someone to walk into it, trip and fall.
• The crossing from the taxi rank to the Town Hall side of the Market Place is a hazard, motorists are difficult to see/hear coming from the Melksham House direction and also off the Market Place roundabout on the main road. The road is a wide area for a visually-impaired person to get across safely.
“It was a pleasure to meet with cllr Martin Pain and cllr Jon Hubbard and for them to experience the challenges visually-impaired people have by using simulation specs and a long cane.
“Wiltshire Sight want everyone to enjoy the new layout, but also think it should be safe and accessible for visually-impaired people.”
Discussing his experience at a town council meeting, cllr Hubbard said, “Wearing those glasses that were given to me, even when you walk right up to the stone benches you can’t see them. If someone is partially sighted, they will not see them and could easily walk into them. We do need to do something.”
It was suggested at the meeting that bins or flower pots be placed either side of the two stone benches by the taxi rank to help create colour contrast. Other solutions offered included moving the flower pot as soon as possible and placing a colourful trim around the bottom of the circular bench to help make it stand out.