Council plan fails the blind
SHE’S legally blind but Elizabeth Jabour of Grafton can clearly see big holes in Clarence Valley Council’s Draft Outdoor Dining Policy.
Under the draft policy, the valley’s CBD traders who want to place tables and chairs outside their premises must place them at least 1.8 metres from the ‘shoreline’ – the point where buildings meet the footpath.
But Elizabeth said she has never used the shoreline to negotiate her way around Grafton’s CBD and has in fact been trained to use her cane to find the centre line of the footpath – the gap between the blocks of concrete that make up the footpath.
This, she said, made much more sense because she knew that the centre was hardly ever obstructed.
Elizabeth also used the smells of coffee and food outlets and her spatial memory to gauge her way around.
She said the shoreline theory was flawed because when a visually impaired person came to a shopfront that had no raised lip at its entrance, the person was suddenly left with no bearings.
She suggested a better and safer solution would be to place tactile markers along the centre of the footpath and train the visually impaired to use them.
“If tables and chairs are put where the council suggest, cars are just going to back into them,” she said.
A quick glance along Prince Street, Grafton, yesterday saw quite a few signs and racks against the shoreline which showed retailers in open defiance of the council’s policy adopted last year.
Elizabeth spoke in support of Prince Street traders, saying the myriad of rules and regulations governing the retail trade was anti-business.
The Sister of Mercy nun, she acknowledged that she would not be speaking on behalf of all blind people in Grafton.
“I’m lucky – I’ve lived here all my life and I can retain things,” said the 54-year-old.
Elizabeth said she wasn’t happy Prince Street’s new bins had been placed before tactile markers had been installed.
“The crossings and corners are the places I do shoreline and now bins have been placed in the way and with no tactile markers.”
She disputed a point made by CVC’s community development officer, Susan Howland, that the shoreline policy needed to be put in place to allow blind people to negotiate any town in Australia.
“I don’t know too many blind people that would tackle a strange town without someone with them,” Elizabeth said.
Ms Howland is also a member of CVC’s Access Committee which communicates the needs of disabled people to council’s policy makers.
She said the clear shoreline concept was one endorsed by visually impairment groups across Australia, including Guide Dogs Australia and Vision Australia. Elizabeth said she had resigned from the Access Committee several years ago out of frustration.