Hereford’s Royal National College for the Blind says it is disappointed that kerbs on a city centre street are being removed.

The semi-pedestrianised Widemarsh Street has long been a bone of contention with city residents and visitors, many of whom have tripped on its low kerbs.

But now concerns have been raised over how visually impaired people, some with canes or guide dogs, will be able to navigate the new layout.

Canes will not be able to be tapped against the kerb, and guide dogs, who are trained to stop at the kerbside, will not know where the road is.

Gareth Brydon, the college’s head of mobility and independent living skills, said: “We agreed that the existing arrangement needed changing. The outcome of any consultation will be a compromise.

“But our preference would have been to lift the kerbs a bit more. Guide dogs are trained to stop at a kerb, which also tell people with long canes where the road edge is. In fact we would prefer to have a defined kerb to go round the corner onto the [similarly semi-pedestrianised] High Street too.”


This view is supported by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK, whose president Andrew Hodgson said: “The remediation works must incorporate at least 60mm-high kerbs, preferably of a standard height, so blind and visually impaired people can independently navigate the area without walking out into oncoming traffic.”

The 60mm figure was arrived at following research in 2009 to determine the minimum kerb height to keep blind and visually impaired people safe, he explained. Those currently on Widemarsh Street appear to be only about 30mm in height.

The work, expected to cost £1.3 million, appears to go against a government moratorium on new shared-space road projects, which council officers, cabinet member for transport Coun John Harrington and local MP Jesse Norman “should all be aware of”, Mr Hodgson added.


A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: “As part of the current works on Widemarsh Street, the council consulted with disability and visually impaired groups to ensure that their needs have been incorporated in the scheme.

“This highlighted the challenges faced by pedestrians based on their disability and the form of assistance they use. It was found that consistency in the surfaces was the closest remedy to meeting these needs, and will ensure that pedestrians have a good, safe experience.”

Mr Brydon said the council “is talking about some form of ‘tactile delineation’ on the street and we will endeavour to work with that for our students, even if it’s not ideal”.

He added: “At least Widemarsh Street will traffic-free for a few weeks during the work.”

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