Premier welcomes ideas to help visually impaired
Bermuda needs to make changes to provide greater accessibility for the visually impaired, according to a report presented to Premier Paula Cox yesterday.
Among the suggested improvements are better marking of stairs and an automated system to announce bus stops.
The report, 'Through My Eyes', was written by Kristina Bean, an officer with the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged.
Ms Bean, who is blind in her left eye and has tunnel vision in her right, compared accessibility in Hamilton to that in Toronto, Ontario.
The former presents a number of challenges for the visually impaired, she said.
“Some individuals may find it hard to navigate within Hamilton without assistance due to poor lighting, unmarked stairs and glass doors,” she wrote.
“While in Toronto, pursuing my educational aspirations, I noticed many aspects of travelling in the city that could be of use in Bermuda.”
Ms Bean praised the automated stop announcement system in Toronto. Persons who are visually impaired on the Island must rely on the bus driver to tell them when they have reached their stop.
“An automated bus system will not only help out those with visual disabilities, but it will also assist the general public and tourists visiting the Island,” she said.
Other suggestions made in the report include:
l brighter lighting and bigger writing on signs;
l contrasting sidewalks to help those with limited vision to see where the sidewalk ends, and where there are ramps;
l more consistent ramp placement;
l high-contrast markings on glass doors and windows;
l improved lighting and marking on stairs, both indoor and outdoor;
l braille on elevator buttons and audio systems inside the elevators to announce what floor the elevator is on.
As a means of explaining the difficulties the visually impaired face, Ms Bean gave Health Minister Zane DeSilva a 30-minute tour of the city wearing glasses intended to simulate tunnel vision and periphery vision, two types of limited visibility.
“Ms Bean had me hustling around the city,” he said. “I can assure you, it's a challenge getting around.
“It has been a pleasure to meet with such a bright young lady today and see her becoming actively involved in impacting Bermuda's future in terms of accessibility. She has given us here at the Ministry much to consider with regard to improving accessibility.”
Ms Cox praised the work of both Ms Bean and chief accessibility officer Keith Simmons, whose efforts were also behind the report.
She said that improved accessibility should be put in place wherever it is realistic to do so.
Yesterday's presentation was expected to take place in the upper level of the Cabinet building. The Premier noted that the challenges faced were highlighted by the fact that the area was inaccessible to Mr Simmons, who is in a wheelchair.
“I think the report is a good way to get a sense of some of the challenges faced in the community,” Ms Cox said. “I hope we will see the outlines of your work reflected in future decisions.”