A disabled campaigner has won the right to challenge the government in the Court of Appeal over guidance that could lead to her and other blind and visually-impaired people walking into danger.
Sarah Leadbetter is challenging government guidance that was published last year on the use of tactile paving.
She argues that kerbs of a certain height are vital because they allow blind and visually-impaired people to tell the difference between the pavement and the road.
Leadbetter points to a study by University College London that found the minimum detectable kerb height for guide dogs and users of long canes was 60 millimetres, whereas the government guidance allows kerbs that are just 25 millimetres in height.
The Department for Transport (DfT) guidance suggests that 25 millimetres is enough to “help ensure vision impaired people do not inadvertently venture into the carriageway”.
This height was included in the guidance despite objections from charities representing blind and visually-impaired people.
Leadbetter’s judicial review claim was heard in January.
Although the Administrative Court found that the consultation period for the new guidance – which lasted just 12 days – was unlawful, it declined to quash the guidance itself.
Both sides sought permission to appeal.
The DfT’s application was refused, but Leadbetter’s was allowed.
Leadbetter, who is national campaigns officer for the disabled-led campaigning organisation National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), said: “I am very pleased with this decision; the minimum height of kerbs to keep blind and visually-impaired people safe has been known for a long time now.
“It is preposterous that the academic evidence provided during the consultation was not taken into account during the updating of the guidance.
“Kerbs are essential for keeping me and my guide dog Nellie safe, and stop me walking out into the road and into danger.
“The guidance in its current format is not safe and it will result in new streets being designed that are inaccessible for people like me.
“It is essential the guidance is correct and that is why we have appealed the original judgment.”
The legal challenge is supported by NFBUK, as well as the charities Guide Dogs and RNIB.
Sarah Gayton, NFBUK’s street access campaign coordinator, said: “It was clear from the start the updated guidance did not protect our access needs and our detailed evidence we provided during the consultation was ignored.
“We were very pleased that Sarah Leadbetter took this case, proved that the consultation was unlawful and has been granted permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal in relation to the issue of kerb heights.
“There can be no compromise; kerbs prevent us from walking into danger and keep us safe.”
Leadbetter’s solicitor, Elizabeth Cleaver, of Bindmans, said: “We are delighted that the Court of Appeal will be reviewing this issue, which is of vital importance to the independence of blind and visually-impaired people.
“We are also pleased that the Court of Appeal has refused permission for the DfT’s cross-appeal.
“The consultation process for this guidance was clearly both inadequate and unlawful.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on these ongoing legal proceedings.
“Safety is our priority, and we continue to work closely with user groups on all aspects of travel safety.”
Picture: Sarah Leadbetter with her guide dog Nellie outside the Royal Courts of Justice
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