The Munster Express, Tuesday, 4 October 2022

WDN walkability audit

A Walkability Audit was carried out along Slievekeale Road and Barrack Street on Thursday, September 29th, by Waterford Disability Network. Organised by Seán Rohan and Maolíosa Ní Chléirigh the purpose was to see what obstacles along the route were experienced by a group of people with mixed abilities. Afterwards the information and insight gained was used to fill in a form from the National Transport Authority which will be uploaded to their website.

Walkability Munster express image

Seán Rohan said: “First I would like to credit Maolíosa with having the idea to carry out this audit and I was very happy to facilitate it taking place as it was such an educational experience. A lot was learned and we were especially glad to have been joined by three members of Waterford Council, namely Cllr Joanne Bailey, Cllr Donal Barry and Cllr Cristiona Kiely as well as Jemma Jacob the Schools Road Safety Officer for the Council and Susan Gallagher of SETU.

It was greatly beneficial for them to witness at first hand the difficulties visually impaired persons, in particular, have that often would not occur to most people. We expect that will resonate with them far more than reading a description of issues on paper.”

He continued: “It was very interesting to compare how different obstacles affected Vincent Keane who has very limited vision and uses a white cane compared to Betty Threadgold who is blind and has a guide dog. When asked if the guide dog was trained to react to obstacles not on the ground such as branches overhanging a wall or large side mirrors on trucks Betty explained how the dogs were trained to stop at any such obstacle in expectation of a nut treat of which she always has a supply of.”

Seán explained that this was the first such Walkability Audit they have organised. “We ended up taking a shorter route than planned as we had not realised just how much longer an urban journey can take a visually impaired or blind person, especially one not with a guide dog. This will help us in planning future audits,” he said.

He continued: “Among the issues we came across, the first was that it is impossible for a wheelchair or mobility scooter to join the footpath on Slievekeale on the Walsh Park side as the footpath has a vertical drop so it cannot be accessed. For this reason, both Catherine Burgess and Elaine Power had to cross over on their mobility scooters meaning they had to drive directly past the Presentation School rather than along the wall of Walsh Park. Nell Walsh also took part in the walk and it was great to see how easily she could manipulate her walking frame for going up and down at high kerbs. On Barrack Street, some of the terraced houses have front doorsteps that protrude further than the house wall. The visually impaired are often advised to walk on the inside of a footpath but here such doorsteps could be a hazard as easy to trip over. More so as this is not the case with all houses on the terrace so a false sense of security may be created when no protruding doorsteps are experienced at the first few doors. Lack of regularity was also a factor when crossing the road. Some road crossings were marked well to indicate to those with a white cane that there was a pedestrian crossing and the kerb dropped to allow wheelchair or scooter access. At other crossings there was no bevelling on the ground to indicate a crossing to inform the visually impaired and wheelchair or scooter users had to divert along a side street until they came to a driveway entrance from which they could access the road to cross.”

The audit was timely as it fell within Positive Aging Week 2022 plus the following day, Friday 30th was the 30th National MakeWayDay where the importance of keeping footpaths clear of obstructions such as illegally parked cars or rubbish bins is highlighted throughout the national media.

“Anyone interested in carrying out a “Universal Design Walkability Audit Tool for Roads and Streets” can do so by downloading the form from and of course Maolíosa and I would be most willing to advise or help in any way,” added Seán. “We will be uploading our completed audit to the NTA site plus perusing a number of issues raised with elected officials.”

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