Today is the International Day of Light (May 16th), so I thought that I would write something to explain what a difference the light makes to somebody who is visually impaired.
For me, I LOVE British Summer Time hours. Long light days mean that I can be more independent, for longer. In the dark I can’t see well at all, I am not confident going out alone in the dark. If I do, I get a taxi and I sometimes need help from the driver with getting into the taxi and walking me to the door when we arrive. When I am in the taxi I find it quite hard to tell where we are. I put my total trust and faith into the driver and hope that they get me there safe. What does help is when businesses and iconic buildings have decorative lighting or big clear signs that are lit up. For example I know I am near town when I see the big old building with the blue lights by the roundabout. And I know I am nearly home when I see the lights from the petrol station near my road. They help me a great deal to recognise where I am and also follow my journey and feel confident that we are going the right way. Busses, trams and walking alone are not an option for me at all when it is dark. If I am with somebody that I know well and trust then I am fine, but if not then I am just not confident enough. Talking busses and trams do help a lot and if it was guaranteed on every bus and tram every time, then maybe I would venture out in the dark. But I have heard stories of bus drivers turning the talking off because it annoys them, how true that is I don’t know. And so far in Sheffield, talking busses are just on one route, the 120 route. This is a bus I only usually use to travel through the city centre, so it is very helpful, but not a bus I use all of the time. And as I do not live near a tram stop it is quite rare that I use the tram.
Light evenings mean that instead of aiming to be home for 4pm, I can aim to be home for 8pm or later. That is a massive difference. Depending on where I am travelling from and how confident I feel, I sometimes want to set off before it even starts to go dark. Twilight is worse than the dark in some ways. It is so disorientating. So in winter, this means leaving at around 3pm! Coming home in the light means that I can see where my house is, so that I can tell the taxi driver when to stop, more accurately. Plus they can read my house number easier when it is light. If I am confident with the route I may even decide to get the bus home. This does depend on how busy the busses are likely to be though. I do avoid going on busses alone during busy times as they are scary and hard to find a seat. Also if a lot of people are stood up, it is hard to see through the windows, so I will struggle to follow where we are and recognise my stop.
Being in a well lit environment is also very beneficial for me. In a dull or very shaded environment I find it hard to see what I am doing, I find it hard to see where potential hazards are and I find it hard to look for things. Some restaurants and bars are so dull, the flooring is dull, the furniture is dull, the walls are dull and they hardly have any lights on! Why??? It makes things so difficult. I understand the whole ambience thing, if they want to sit in the dark then fine, but they could do more to help. Like having the furniture a completely different colour to the flooring, so that there is a big contrast. Make it look funky with all bright, random colours and styles. Making doors and door frames a different colour to the rest of the walls. Make lighting good enough to read the menus and see your food. There have been occasions where somebody I know has used their torch on their phone just to read menus. And she has quite good sight. I just don’t understand the logic of how some places are designed. One thing that I have noticed is that some places seem to forget that making things accessible, also means making things accessible for visually impaired people. Not just people with a physical disability.
This is just a description of what is right for me. Everybody’s sight is different and some people really struggle with the light and brightness. That would be better described by somebody else. So if you are one of these people then please tell us what you think?