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Needs of those with sight loss need met as coronavirus regulations lift, say Alliance representatives

We need to ensure the needs of those with sight loss are met as the coronavirus regulations begin to lift, Alliance MLAs have said, after the Guide Dogs charity maintaining social distance would be difficult for many blind people in our towns and cities.

The organisation said while it welcomed attempts by the Infrastructure and Communities Ministers to implement moves to allow cafes, bars and restaurants pavement and road space to allow for social distancing, for many people living with sight loss, being able to tell how close you are to someone else was often incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA said the party had been working on the issue for some time.

“Alliance Ability, a group of party members with disabilities, have been working with a number of Alliance representatives, including Councillor Ross McMullan in Belfast, to ensure pavement cafes and other locations are part of an inclusive return to us all shopping locally.

“Government Departments have a statutory duty to ensure the needs of disabled people are met. It is vital they are involved in the planning for the easing of lockdown regulations to make sure they are not disadvantaged by any decisions made.”

Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA said town centres needed to be accessible to all.

“I have submitted an Assembly question to ask the Infrastructure Minister to ask whether consideration will be given to updating the design manual for roads in light of these recommendations around pavement cafe licensing.

“The Departments of Infrastructure and Communities have a major role to play in this. It is vital they ensure space is given to assist traders, while allowing accessibility for all.”