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Shared Spaces and Fashion

A row about keeping Scottish streets safe for blind people. Campaigners say mixing vehicles and pedestrians puts lives at risk. Plus, how to choose clothes when you can't see.

Shared Spaces
All councils in England and Wales have put to stop to new plans for "Shared spaces" where cars, bikes and pedestrians use the same space. But that hasn't extended to Scotland. Some blind people say they are now too frightened to go into their town centre. Tom Walker meets campaigners in Kirkintilloch to find out how they navigate the streets when marked crossings and pavement-edges have been removed.

Fashion
How do you know you are looking good when you can't see the clothes you are wearing? We investigate some of the techniques and technology used by blind and visually impaired people to help them chose the right clothes to buy and ensure they wear the combinations that suit them.

Presenter: Peter White
Producer: Sarah Lewthwaite

Available now

20 minutes

In Touch Transcript: 18-09-2018

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT.  BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

 

IN TOUCH – Shared Spaces and Fashion

 

TX:  18.09.2018  2040-2100

 

PRESENTER:          PETER WHITE

 

PRODUCER:            SARAH LEWTHWAITE

 

 

Peter White

Good Evening.  Tonight, the row that won't go away!  Why, when it comes to spared spaces, blind and partially sighted Scots want to copy the English.  And do I look alright in this?  Ways of making sure that your outfit matches your aspirations. 

 

But first, a couple of months ago, the Department for Transport announced that it was urging local authorities to freeze shared space projects, which were in the planning stage.  Now these are schemes, which relax the rules around traffic management at replacing crossing controlled by lights with the right for pedestrians to cross anywhere, lowering or removing kerbs and allowing both cars and cyclists to share the space with pedestrians.  The idea is to put more of the responsibility onto people to drive, walk and cycle considerately. And such shared spaces have become increasingly numerous.

 

But right from the start, visually impaired people's organisations have opposed them vigorously, describing them as dangerous and frightening.  And this announcement of a moratorium was hailed as a major breakthrough, but it didn't extend to Scotland and there the row goes on.  The National Federation of Blind People in Scotland is calling on the Scottish government to copy England and call a halt to shared space projects. 

 

Sandy Taylor is leading the campaign on behalf of the Federation and he took our reporter Tom Walker to the scheme in his own town, which has upset visually impaired residents.

 


 

 

Sandy Taylor

So here we are in the centre of Kirkintilloch at the junction, the infamous junction Catherine Street.  To my right is Catherine Street.  To my left is Care Street.  And we've got Cowgate running north to south.  So these are courtesy crossings.  Now where we are supposed to make eye contact with drivers to say, "I want to cross the road" Now you will realise that for a blind person like myself that's not possible.  Therefore, you know we can't access our town centre at all, because we're not prepared to play Russian Roulette just simply stepping out in front of vehicles that could be silent vehicles, electric cars, cyclists we are not prepared to that, so it is a no go area for us.  It is a very busy junction, very busy indeed and you know nobody has right of way, so there have been many or very altercations here between drivers and also between drivers and pedestrians.

 

Tom Walker

When you're walking along the road in this shared space area, what are the specific problems you come across?

 

Sandy Taylor

Well as you know I've got a white cane, I normally follow the building line.  And you'll see further down the street, there are many many obstacles, tables and chairs outside cafes etc.  So normally on a situation like that, I would go to the outer edge of the pavement and follow the outer edge of the kerb.  Unfortunately, that there's no detectable kerbs in this town.

 

Tom Walker

No kerbs at all?

 

Sandy Taylor

There are 20mm up stands, but that that's very seldom detectable by a cane.  And also, guide dogs rely on kerbs; they are trained to stop at kerbs.  Now they are totally confused by this shared space system.

 

Margaret Hutchinson

Hey, who's a good boy!  Good lad, hey, hey boy.

 

Tom Walker

This is Margaret Hutchinson with her guide dog Bob! 

 

Margaret Hutchinson

Oh!

 

Tom Walker

When Margaret goes out, Bob goes with her.  However these days, they don't go to the shared space scheme in Kirkintilloch.

 

Margaret Hutchinson

It's too difficult for me!  I used to walk absolutely everywhere.  Now I find I'm having to take taxis from A to B, because I don't feel safe at these courtesy crossings.  And my guide dog trainer has told me "Do not cross there, it is not safe" and she says "Even as a fully sighted person, it is not safe that you can't see traffic coming up the hill or coming down the hill".

 

 

Gillian Taggart

Ooh I love the smell of coffee.

 

Tom Walker

This is Gillian Taggart who as well as being visually impaired is a wheelchair user.  Now you might think that the shared space scheme with its flat kerbs would be super accessible for people like Gillian, but she says that isn't the case.

 

Gillian Taggart

Because I've lost the left side vision in both eyes, I can only look at one traffic direction; I can't do both at the same times.  So I can't cross at the the four way junction at all, it's just too scary.  I find it really terrifying at times even with the side streets with the two sets of traffic lights, cos people jump the lights and I've nearly been hit four times.

 

Tom Walker

People who are in favour of shared spaces say that they are more aesthetically pleasing and that there are fewer accidents.  Shouldn't we just accept that you know they are generally better for the majority of people?

 

Sandy Taylor

For the majority of people, but we have rights too!  We are you know not just visually impaired or blind people.  There are many many other disabled and elderly people who can no longer access the towns.  I'm talking about people with dementia for instance, who previously could press the button, listen for the the bleeps and/or watch for the the green man and access the town centre without any difficulty whatsoever. 

 

Gillian Taggart

I've got as much right as anybody else to be a part of my community and to go in there.  I could do that.  And the council has now stopped me from doing that and that's just not fair!

 

Tom Walker

How do you feel about that?

 

Gillian Taggart

Angry!  Absolutely angry!  As if I don't exist as if I'm invisible, as if I'm a second-class citizen!  And just because I'm unfortunate enough to have lost my sight, why should I be excluded from my local community?

 

Tom Walker

So what would you like the Scottish government to do now?

 

Sandy Taylor

I would like them to do exactly what they have done in England and call a halt to these stupid crazy schemes that exclude hundreds if not thousands of people from their towns.  Stop this madness now!

 

Tom Walker

How likely do you think it is in reality that they'll a call a pause to this?

 


 

 

Sandy Taylor

They must do it, we live in a democracy.  We are being discriminated against and this against the law!  So, we want these schemes scraped immediately.  We want kerbs back.  We want controlled crossings back.

 

Paul White

Sandy Taylor, ending Tom Walker's report!  Well we did seek an interview with Transport Scotland, they turned us down but in a statement they said "We are looking again at National Guidance in this area to consider changes that further supporting inclusive design and are collaborating with key groups including organisations representing visually impaired people". East Dunbartonshire Council, which is where the Kirkintilloch scheme, also didn't want to go on air, but they told us "There are two controlled pedestrian crossing signals and following consultation another one will be created".

 

Now looking smart and not just smart, but the way you want to look can be a bit of a challenge for us.  Two problems really buying the right clothes in the first place and then be sure your wearing a matching outfit when you are getting ready to face the world in the morning.  The latest solution to matching comes from a master student at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh.  Anna Cuinu has just designed some clothes aimed specifically at making patterns and colours more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.  To make sure she was getting it right, she took the results of her new tactile tartan creations along to a research group of visually impaired people for their comments.  We eavesdropped!

 

Anna Cuinu

I've got all the colours that I did with my collection, if you guys want to have a feel or have...

 

Guest

Yeah!

 

Anna Cuinu

I'll just start passing them down.  What I've done is created an accessible collection of clothing.  It all has Feelipa buttons on it for colour recognition and easy wear drawstrings.  Feelipa is a coding system, which basically is colour recognition through shape. Yeah there is another button on the other end of the drawstring, there's two.

 

Guest

Ah right!

 

Anna

So, one of them's the button for orientation then the other one is...

 

Guest

Oh I see right!

 

Anna

A rectangle with the two grooves, which I think they look great.

 

Guest

Right!

 

Anna Cuinu

So, people can tell what colour the garments are by feeling that wooden button which is shape which will communicate the colour of the garment.  So, a rectangle is red.  A triangle is yellow.

 

Guest

Now what colour would that?

 

Anna Cuinu

That one is navy, so it's the circle is blue!  And then hopefully you'll be able to feel the three lines on it!

 

Guest

Aha!

 

Anna

And that those mean its dark!

 

Guest

Aha, isn't that brilliant!

 

Sue Marshall

I'm Sure Marshall, I'm a volunteer Braille teacher for RNIB here in Edinburgh and I'm not totally blind, but I used to see a bit!

 

Anna Cuinu

So, how much do you care about the clothes you wear?

 

Sue Marshall

A lot! People who can see, you don't want them to think 'Well there's there poor blind soul, she can't look after herself' it's pretty basic I think really.  Apart from that, I like...I like to look nice so I suppose that goes your pride!  I'm fairly lucky in that I'm quite outgoing, so I can quite happily go into a shop with the white stick and say come and help me, which they do.  And I can always tell if something fits me or if it feels nicer if it hands nicely, but colours my big challenge because I used to see colours were very important to me.  And I think I can still remember what they look like.  I wouldn't want to go out with two things that looked horrendous together.  I use little coloured buttons which already exist, like a green for triangle.

 

Anna Cuinu

Yeah!

 

Sue Marshall

You just sew them on.  I also have little metal labels, which have Braille on them like PPR for purple, but then you have to be able to use Braille.  And there's also colour detectors you can buy that you can put on clothes, which will tell you what they are.  And of course there are apps now as well.

 

Anna Cuinu

Yeah!

Sue Marshall

But you know an app you've got to have your phone with you, you've got to put it on so your idea of buttons is is much better quite honestly.

 

Anna Cuinu

Other things like I've created really big large pockets.  The jacket in particular can fit a folded up cane.  All the pockets in the collection can fit a magnifier as well, you know and one of the digital magnifiers as well as like an IPhone!

 

Sue Marshall

I love the pocket.

 

Anna Cuinu

Do you like the pockets, yeah!

 

Sue Marshall

I do! There smashing and I put my phone in there.

 

Guest

And mostly I like to have somebody come with me.  I do a lot of online shopping now too and I listen to the description of things on the computer that makes me a little more independent because it can be difficult bringing my husband down to describe things to me. He's not a great one for going clothes shopping.

 

Peter White

But with fashions changing so rapidly these days and the amount of choice now available on the market, this is only one very specific solution.  The charity 'Look UK' supports younger visually impaired people and its turned its attention to helping them feel confident about choosing the clothes that fit the image they want to portray.  They recently ran an event in conjunction with John Lewis, using their stylists to give advice and they intend to cast their net much wider than just one retailer.  Ellen Williams, who ran the event, is herself in her early 20s.

 

Ellen Williams

I lost of my sight when I was a teenager.  And one of the things I found really challenging was that I couldn't judge my appearance anymore.  I just find it a really frustrating process.  And sometimes shopping with sighted friends can be really isolating you know that you can go with a group and and people will be "Oh look at this, this looks really nice" and your kind of lagging at the back thinking 'Oh, well I don't really know what you're talking about' like.

 

Peter White

Did it put you off going?

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah!  It put me off going and it put me off shopping for a really long time.

 

Peter White

So, how do you trust?

 


 

 

Ellen Williams

I've got a younger sister whose 2yrs younger than me and my mum and a couple of trusted friends, they know me and they know the things I like to wear and the kind of the things that I'm comfortable in.  There have been times when I've been shopping with mum and sister and their personal preferences are very different, so that's when I'm kind of piggy in the middle then having to choose between or do I go with what mum says or do I go what my sister says?  If I want to get something for work and look a bit more professional, I might go with mum's opinion.  Whereas if I want to get something for a party or something, I'll I'll take my sister.

 

Peter White

And what about when you actually want to know how it looks on you, who do you trust then?  And and have you had any disasters?

 

Ellen Williams

I think what's most tricky is buying things online.  Shopping in store is easier, cos you can get a feel for something and and feel for the shape of it as well, you can try it on.  Even when I'm buying online, I'll I'll read the descriptions myself and then send it to someone for a second opinion before buying.  And then it turns up and it's just nothing like what it said on the tin, you know so I've had a fair few disasters like that. 

 

Peter White

So on the whole issue of how, how retailers can help!  First of all, tell me a bit more about the John Lewis event?

 

Ellen Williams

We had a team of their personal stylists giving a workshop with about 15/16 young people from current trends and the different kind of things that are in at the moment.  Like I never knew that it was very in at the minute to tuck your t-shirt into your jeans or into your skirt or whatever.

 

Peter White

Really, I've only just started to un-tuck my thinking that that was the the fashionable thing to do!

 

Ellen Williams

Things change so often, you're always kind of playing catch up I think.

 

Peter White

Right, so I was being fashionable by accident!

 

Ellen Williams

They gave us an overview of their personal styling service.  And a couple of other high street shops do this as well.  A personal styling service involves having them really pick things out for you and really give you professional advice on what colours would suit you and what different cuts would suit your body shape would be the most flattering!  Things that you need to know but your friends and your family might not have the expertise to be able to to tell you why this certain jacket looks good on you.

 


 

 

Peter White

Have you used the personal shopper ser...service yourself?

 

Ellen Williams

I did a few years ago!  And so, I actually used Debenhams to get a prom dress and I found it really helpful.  The appointment was completely free and there was no obligation to buy anything either.  Having someone there that was really impartial and that you can trust in that way, she gave me some advice about what kind of styles would suit me that I I still remember now.

 

Peter White

On the issue of colours and you, you can distinguish like from dark...

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah!

 

Peter White

...and I think you were able to see.

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah!

 

Peter White

And I just wonder what information you need about colours that which would actually be of use to you to make a decision for yourself?

 

Ellen Williams

I have some visual memory of some like basic colours, but if it's get any more complicated than red, blue or green then I I'm a bit lost.  So I remember that I didn't really like yellow, so I'll always stay away from anything yellow.  But it can quite complicated, because when I had that level of vision to be able to see a colour, it was very bad to clash.  So for me, things like pink and red are a big no no.  Whereas now apparently it's really in fashion to wear pink and red.

 

Peter White

And this is where it's so difficult isn't it?

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah!

 

Peter White

Because things change so quickly now?

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah exactly!

 

Peter White

Yeah, so you have to have advice kind of all the time really?

 


 

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah.  Yeah. And it is, sometimes it feels really uncomfortable you know to go and against something that you've always kind of taken for granted.

 

Peter White

And I wondered if you got any surprises from visually impaired people themselves, the things they do?  The techniques they use?  The way they decide things? 

 

Ellen Williams

I mean I've had it when people have asked why do you bother, why do you care so much about clothes and and beauty and stuff like that if you can't see it?  You know you can't see yourself, what's the point! 

 

Peter White

Yeah!

 

Ellen Williams

And the fact that we, we had so many young people come and they were so enthused and and eager to learn.  I think it just emphasised to us how important it is to give young visually impaired people an access to that kind of information.  When you're VI you can't just kind of look in a mirror and have that visual confirmation and validate yourself like 'Oh yeah okay, I look alright today that's cool'.  Cos you you have to use other people as your mirrors, you have to get that actual verbal feedback from someone that you look presentable.

 

Peter White

And once you've actually got the clothes you need in your wardrobe, what about the whole business of the method you used to to match them up in the morning to make sure that you've got the right thing that that goes with something else yeah?  And what's your method of doing that?

 

Ellen Williams

I remember a lot of things by the touch, so I kind of organised my wardrobe in terms of different categories and sometimes I'll have like complete outfits on the same hanger so that I remember that this top goes with these trousers, I'll put them on the same hanger.  And I'll organise so that on the far left there's summery stuff.  In the middle, there's work stuff.  In the far back, there's there's more kind of go outie things, so that's how I do it.  Someone was saying that they use drawers for everything, so they've got a drawer for t-shirt.  A drawer for shorts.  A drawer for socks drawer!  Everyone's got their own method and as long as it works for you then you know that's fine.

 

Peter White

And more recently but there have been a number of of apps where there on a Smartphone where you can actually get someone to check it for you.  Do you use those?

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah sometimes when I'll get two things of the same colour or just you know in a rush in the morning, I don't remember what which is which?  Then I use Seeing AI quite a bit.  It's got a colour detector on there, so all you have to do is hold that up to something and it'll give you a colour.

 

Peter White

And then of course, there are other apps aren't there which which basically involve real people in real time?

 

Ellen Williams

Yeah!  Yeah!  So my favourite is called B Specula and that's one that you can take a picture of something and send it to someone with a question, so I've used this a couple of times to get feedback about my makeup.  So I'm in a rush in the morning so I I try and take a quick snap of my face, so I do that and then I send it off to one of the sighted volunteers and ask "Have I got any mascara on my nose?" And usually, it'll comeback saying "No its fine.  Have a nice day blah blah blah".

 

Peter White

Ellen Williams.  Do share your own tips for choosing and matching clothes.  And that's it for today.  From me, Peter White, Producer Sarah Lewthwaite and the team, goodbye.

 

 

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