Staff and volunteers from Sight Support Worthing (SSW) met yesterday with the owners and managers of cafés, restaurants and pubs in Warwick Street, Worthing, to demonstrate how blind and visually impaired customers experience their establishments, and how they can make their premises more accessible.
This special visual awareness event, held in conjunction with Adur and Worthing Council, kicked off with a heart-felt appeal from SSW Trustee Brian Butcher, who is visually impaired himself. Brian highlighted the main problems visually impaired customers have when walking around town centres and visiting hospitality outlets, with a focus on obstacles such as A-boards, tables and chairs, and other street furniture.
SSW representatives gave the business owners – including Thieves’ Kitchen and Jonny’s Restaurant – an opportunity to experience first-hand – through the use of ‘sim specs’ – what it is like to visit their business with a visual impairment. Jonny Abrahams, owner of Jonny’s Restaurant, wore the sim specs for a stroll down Warwick Street: “It’s been really useful to experience some of the eye conditions that visually impaired people have and to see how it is for them on the street and in my restaurant.”
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, came along to support the event and tried out the sim specs, escorted by a sighted volunteer. Mr Loughton said “Events like this are really important to remind people that it’s great to have a busy street like Warwick Street – it’s fantastic that people are coming back out and socialising – but there are people for whom this can be a real trip hazard. We just need to remember that people with sight disability are customers as well and we need to make it as safe as possible for them to be able to enjoy life on the high street like everybody else.”
Brian Butcher, SSW Trustee and volunteer with RNIB and Guide Dogs, was delighted with how the event had gone: “It’s fantastic that so many of the Warwick Street establishments were keen to understand how they can make their premises more accessible for blind and visually impaired people. We’re keen to work with as many of the amazing businesses in Worthing as possible to help them in the same way. For hospitality outlets it’s especially important, as we can help them understand the requirements of their pavement licences in an easy, practical and cost-effective way.” You can watch Brian’s opening address below.
Plans are now being made for a similar event to be held for hospitality businesses in other locations throughout Worthing.