Matthias einwag demographers have been describing the phenomenon for years: the life expectancy of the individual is increasing, and our society is getting older on average. This means that age-related diseases are on the rise. There are many ways to counteract reduced mobility. Buildings are being made barrier-free and burgersteige are gradually being equipped with continuous guidance systems for the visually impaired. But intelligent technical devices can also make everyday life easier for the visually impaired.
Thomas junge, a master optician from staffelstein, is a member of the patient self-help association pro retina. This is a nationwide association of people with visual impairments and experts who want to help. In addition to affected people, opticians and doctors, not only older people belong to the association, but also parents of children who suffer from visual impairments.
Foundation in january
Thomas junge wanted to start a pro retina discussion group in bad staffelstein, germany. It was originally planned for november, but the pandemic interfered, so the foundation was postponed until january. "We are trying to build up a network and find people from all over upper franconia who can get involved", says the 53-year-old.
The focus here is on very practical help for everyday life: how to organize future life? What happens if you are unable to work and lose your salary?? Where to get benefits? Which structural improvements at my place of residence make life easier for me??
Addition to the blind federation
The talk circle should lead to the creation of a circle of volunteer helpers, says junge. This is not a competition to the blind federation, only a supplement. Pro retina wanted to provide regional contact persons for those affected, as well as promote scientific research into the causes of the disease. The association, which is based in bonn, has set itself the task of contributing as a sponsor to research into diseases and the development of effective therapies.
His part as an optician, continues junge, is to provide information about refractive errors and to advise on what can or must be corrected. This can be done with lenses to enable better vision and walking. In addition, there are magnifying glasses, telescopic magnifying glasses and digital magnifiers with a reading function that convert text into speech. The optician’s advice extends to determining the individual’s need for treatment and assessing what subsidies can be expected from the health insurance fund.
Minimizing the risk of injury
Other experts from pro retina were able to give tips on accessibility, for example, or on how to make business rooms visually safer with neon stripes or color contrasts. In staffelsteiner bahnhofstrabe, the last section of which is to be redesigned in the next few years, a guidance system for the visually impaired is very important, says thomas junge.
In the case of a guidance system integrated into the walkway, slabs with ribbing or studs are laid in the sidewalk. For visually impaired people who rely on a long cane to walk, these profiles make life much easier.
Guidance systems offer safety
"For people with visual impairments, such guidance systems are an absolute advantage. They increase the quality of life because people feel safer as a result", says walter mackert, the senior citizens’ representative of the city of bad staffelstein. The "homburger kante" in the city already installed in the first three construction phases of the station tramway renovation project. Such one to three rows of pavement give better orientation to people who need to use a cane while walking. Slabs with nubs and grooves have already been laid. Visually impaired people could use their canes to feel where a sidewalk ends or whether they were walking toward an obstacle.
Spa area has a guidance system
In the spa area, where such stones have been installed for several years, the guidance system has been well received, says mackert. In his office hours (every second wednesday of the month in the rooms of the neighborhood management "living in the home"), he notes that the number of people with visual impairments is increasing. That’s why it’s important to lay flattened curbs wherever possible. The city council and the city administration took all the suggestions and proposals for improvements seriously in order to remove obstacles on footpaths.
The commissioner for the disabled is always involved in the planning of new roads and paths, mackert continues. Today, seniors and the walking and visually impaired are always taken into consideration when a road is renovated or newly built. In the case of old roads, the city is trying to successively ruffle the feathers. Wherever this is possible under traffic law, the building yard does it on its own.
For the last two construction phases of the railroad station tramway renovation, the city is planning to install handicapped-accessible sidewalks with a high degree of sensitivity. The renovation project is to be tackled next year, but the timing will depend on the progress of the tenders now being invited.
The "homburger kante" is a guidance system that is accepted by the visually impaired, says mackert. The edge, however, is only used when it is necessary for structural reasons. In the previously redesigned sections of bahnhofstrabe, a different guidance system could not be implemented everywhere due to a lack of space.
Slabs make walking easier
The protection of historical monuments is now also in favor of such senior-friendly and handicapped-accessible solutions in historic old towns, adds mackert. Today, instead of paving, paving slabs were also approved to match the townscape.
A good example is the barrier-free access at the side portal of the basilica of vierzehnheiligen. Here are plates integrated into the pavement, which facilitate the access for wheelchair users and rollator users. But even baby carriages roll better on such slabs than on cobblestones, as parents have confirmed to him time and again.
The city, says walter mackert, cannot do everything that is desirable overnight. Gradually, however, the danger points were defused and walkways were adapted to the requirements of disabled people. In order to find out where visually impaired or senior citizens have problems in everyday life, regular site visits were held. The suggestions collected in the process were taken on board, and solutions are being sought.
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