Firestarting: Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Conversations going on in InvernessThe photo at the top of this post sums up our two Firestarter events held earlier this month in Inverness and Edinburgh: so many intense conversations being held that our group could not be moved on!

These events were very simple in their concept: pairing an able-bodied participant with someone who had a visual or mobility impairment and going for a short walk together through our city centre streets. 

Listening is such a powerful tool, especially when we listen to someone whose voice isn’t always heard and that is what these photos show.

Conversation between wheelchair user and able-bodied participant

Afterwards, we asked our participants to capture on a postcard what had stood out for them among the things that they had learned – as this selection shows, the event was indeed eye-opening:

“It’s been very eye-opening to highlight the number of obstructions on the pavements – bins, A-boards, signs, bollards”


“Inconsistency! … e.g. tactile surface at some crossings but not others … some pavements have dropped kerbs, some don’t”


“I learnt from today how many features I didn’t know the purpose of & how many obstacles there are.”


“We need far more crossings available that are safe for blind people to cross (along with the rest of the public)”


“I found the streets very narrow and bumpy … the most relaxed part was the High St. & Inglis St. which are pedestrianised.”


“The wee wheel at the crossing point! (I never knew!). What an impact different levels / surfaces have on someone with a visual impairment – with increased risk of falls.”

Another pair in conversation

We also asked our participants if they had any messages they wanted to send to local or national politicians based on what they’d learned. This is a big area, and there are issues of budgets and design guidance that can seem intractable. But as some of the responses pointed out there are small things that local authorities could do already, that would start to make a change – like looking at banning A-boards, or enforcing parking blocking dropped kerbs. Or simply tackling the imbalance in how our space is allocated, towards people:

“There is loads of space for vehicles, and so little space for pedestrians, wheelchairs, buggies, people with suitcases … this needs to be reversed.”

Let’s hope they’re listening too. 

You can see more photos from the event in Inverness in this piece here from the Courier.