Vision-impaired group highlights crossing issues


SOUTHLAND’S vision-impaired community is highlighting issues around maintenance-needing pedestrian crossings on International White Cane Safety Day.

Observed annually on October 15, the day is in recognition of the international symbol of blindness and independence.

Blind Citizens Southland Branch representative Carolyn Western said this year they wanted to emphasise the importance of having working audio on pedestrian crossings, particularly for people with dual disabilities.

She considered it to be a regular occurrence to come across a crossing in need of some repair or change, often involving a quiet beep.

Vic West represented the group when he visited the Invercargill City Council (ICC) in August to inform councillors of concerns over the maintenance of audible crossing signals in the city.

He explained he had put in a request for service in March this year for the crossing on the corner of Leet and Kelvin Sts, as well as on Spey and Don Sts.

Later that month he discovered another crossing needing repair near the Blind Low Vision NZ centre near Gala St.

He said a week later only the Spey St crossing had been repaired, and after a further week the Leet St crossing had as well.

He last called ICC on April 7 about the Gala St crossing, which he was most concerned about, and this was fixed some time after.

However, crossings in the area were not working as they should; some enabled a longer crossing time when pushed for a certain amount of time, but the audible message to confirm it was okay to do so was variable in how understandable it was, if there was a message at all. This was a feature he appreciated and was one he would like to see restored.

ICC roading manager Russell Pearson said the council’s contractor inspected the crossings on a regular basis and, at the time, the last one was in March.

He explained the extra time to cross was a trial feature on some crossings which involved more components to maintain than the average crossing.

World Sight Day is held on October 14, and this year, New Zealanders were being called to join the #LoveYourEyes pledge, a global challenge aiming for 1 million eye tests to be completed.

The initiative was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

To help in getting tests to those who need them, eye health professionals were also encouraged to pledge their support by offering free eye tests and employers were encouraged to take part, by pledging to get their employees tested so they could work to their full potential.

To mark the day, an event will be held at the Lands End Boutique Hotel in Bluff.

It will be the first event in the world streamed by the IAPB and WHO and will be the southernmost eye-testing site in the world.