Judge to rule on blind woman’s challenge over public realm scheme safety concerns

Around �5m was spent on the public realm scheme in Lisburn city centre. Pic by John Kelly
Around �5m was spent on the public realm scheme in Lisburn city centre. Pic by John Kelly

A High Court judge is due to deliver judgement this morning on a legal challenge over the height of pavement edges created as part of a multi-million pound public realm scheme in Lisburn city centre.

Lisburn woman Joanna Toner, who is blind, was granted leave to seek a Judicial Review of the 30mm pavement edges, with her counsel arguing that she has been discriminated against on disability grounds in the development of the scheme.

The £5 million public realm scheme, funded by the Department for Social Development and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, was only completed in October 2015. However, Joanna, together with sight loss organisations, believes the 30mm kerbs are too low and pose a serious safety risk as guide dogs and long cane users may fail to recognise or detect the difference in surface levels.

The ruling in the case is expected to be announced at the High Court in Belfast this morning.

Guide Dogs NI and RNIB NI, who have been supporting Joanna throughout the Judicial Review, say the accessibility of public realm schemes in Northern Ireland and across the UK is an issue increasingly affecting blind and partially sighted people.

The charities have called on local councils to work with them and local residents who are blind and partially sighted to ensure town and city centres are accessible to all.