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Leek at heart of access film

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

By Leslie Jackson

Neil Taggart, on Leeds City Council, in middle Tim McSharry of Leeds Accessibility Committee, and Victor Jackson The National Federation of the Blind of the UK on their way to see the film.

Neil Taggart, on Leeds City Council, in middle Tim McSharry of Leeds Accessibility Committee, and Victor Jackson The National Federation of the Blind of the UK on their way to see the film.

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LEEK has been at the centre of a powerful documentary film shown in the House of Lords which highlighted the difficulties blind people are having following the introduction of a shared road space system.

The documentary, entitled Sea of Change - How does a Blind Person Cross the Road, was shown to delegates who were attending the 21st Birthday of the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The film, which starts and ends in Leek, travels across Britain to Coventry, Warwick, London, Lewes, Wakefield and South End on Sea, and shows communities feeling the impact of shared space projects.

It is now to be shown tonight, Wednesday, December 11, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, at the top of Market Place, Leek, at 7.30pm.

The film has been inspired by Leek baker Sarah Gayton following the introduction of the shared road system introduced in Leek, and the effect such schemes are having in towns across the country.

Ms Gayton said: "This concept and design is so dangerous for blind people to use safely and without fear that Guide Dogs tell them not to access them with out sighted assistance, and white cane users fail to pick up the tactile messages on the road surface to keep them out of danger.

"The production team have filmed members of the Federation of the Blind of the UK, whose voices are on the whole ignored during consultation processes when town and city centres are being regenerated, and are left battling the councils to try and get crossings back after changes have been made.

"We have visited Coventry, Warwick, London, Lewes, Leek and South End on Sea and Ipswich, which are among the many towns which are now impacted by this road design.

"The film has been produced as the crew were totally inspired by the Paralympic legacy, and wanted to use their skills to get this unacceptable situation brought to all key stakeholders' attention that blind and visually impaired people were being segregated from society and denied the option of independent travel to their own town centres.

"The film, which is the shocking truth of blind people being designed out of our high streets, is told by the people it affects."

Ms Gayton said the film had also inspired young people from across the world, and they have now received film footage from Kenya, Nigeria, Ecuador and Pakistan on the issues of accessibility and disability in their own countries.

She added: "We will be attempting to edit this together to make an international Sea of Change to wake people up and inspire the world to make it an inclusive place for people with disabilities to access it as normal."

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