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Architects aim to tackle accessibility issue

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Accessibility issue: Keith Simmons, accessibility officer for the Bermuda Government

Architects in Bermuda are looking for ways to make more businesses accessible to the physically challenged and visually impaired.

The Institute of Bermuda Architects (IBA) hosted an architectural tour last week in Hamilton for members and invited industry associates to experience what the visually impaired go through on a daily basis in navigating the streets.

The Government of Bermuda has been doing its part in making sure the public is educated on the physically and visually challenged community.

They have teamed up with IBA’s inaugural Architecture Week.

This is the first year that the IBA had a week dedicated to the visually impaired.

Keith Simmons, accessibility officer at the Ministry of Health, Ageing and Disability Services, said: “This year they are celebrating architectural week. We have had walks for the physically challenged before but now we wanted to enlighten people on what the visually impaired experience everyday walking the streets; things most people take for granted like cutting corners, sidewalks, navigating around signage and more.”

Visual impairments come in many forms and can make navigating the urban environment daunting. That is why Mr Simmons and the IBA want people to have a clearer understanding.

“The walk was an hour long in the city. There was someone who was visually impaired showing how to navigate around,” Mr Simmons said.

This tour will gave participants an interactive experience, with materials, surfaces, time-of-day perspectives, and aspects of limited visibility.

Mr Simmons mentioned that last year’s walk for the physically challenged made businesses more aware, and many have since built wheelchair-accessible ramps and elevators.

The Bermuda Society for the Blind has also been raising awareness. It is dedicated to empowering people who are blind or impaired to learn how to live well with vision loss.

The Society has programmes such as The Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Programme, which enables those who are blind or vision-impaired to complete everyday tasks that formerly depended on vision, by using special techniques, strategies, and adapted equipment and technology.

This leads to increased confidence and independence, and enhances the quality of life of those affected. For individuals with low vision, the programme focuses on using any remaining vision as effectively as possible.

The programme covers topics such as, independent living, orientation and mobility and assistive technology.

If you want to learn more about the visual impaired and programmes contact Keith Simmons on 278-6525 or e-mail bsfbdevelopment@gmail.com

Accessibility issue: Keith Simmons, accessibility officer for the Bermuda Government leads the IBA visually impaired walk (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)