HIGHWAY engineers got an idea of what it is like to be blind in a move which it is hoped may help steer decisions in designing street layouts.

Organised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the day saw those tasked with designing a proposed regeneration project learning more about various eye conditions and how they affect mobility.

The day began in Dorchester on a route which took participants from the Dorset Highways office on a large circle encompassing the town centre with RNIB Regional Campaigns Officer Steve Hyde highlighting issues which might make the built environment more challenging for those with sight loss.

The seven engineers wore simulation spectacles and used canes to help them to gain a sense of what an impact the street scene can have on blind or partially sighted people.

After the walk, some of the group travelled to Blandford where they visited a proposed regeneration site in East Street, which will see speed limits reduced and roads narrowed.

Although a signal-controlled crossing which gives audible and tactile information to pedestrians is set to be replaced by a zebra crossing, all concerned agreed this would be a safe area to travel once the changes were introduced.

The visit did prompt concerns though about the widening of the crossing area at an adjoining section of the town’s marketplace and this will be followed up by the campaigners to ensure the town centre is inclusive to all.

The seeds of the awareness training day were first sown two years ago, when Steve Hyde was approached by Kay Lock who works with blind children in Dorset and was concerned about the impact the project in Blandford would have on youngsters she works with.

Following a Teams call earlier this summer between highways chiefs, the design team and Mr Hyde, the offer to host visual impairment awareness training for the design team in Dorchester was made followed by the Blandford site visit. Since the day, further conversations have taken place between RNIB and design engineers in other parts of Dorset.

More information about RNIB’s campaign work to ensure changes to streets allow those who are blind or partially sighted or with other disabilities to get around safely and cross roads using pedestrian crossing can be found at www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning/priority-campaigns/inclusive-journeys