Shopping at the centre:mk to be made easier for people who are visually impaired

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A woman who is registered blind is persuading thecentre:mk to install an audio system to help hundreds of visually impaired shoppers.

RNIB campaigner Padma Cheriyan has even secured the funding for the latest high tech system to be trialled.

And shopping centre bosses have vowed to do all they can to help.

Padma said: “People don’t realise how difficult it is for a visually impaired person to shop independently at thecentre:mk.

“I’m a veteran at all this, and a frequent visitor to the centre. But I still have huge problems working out which shop is which.

“I end up going into a shoe shop asking to buy a greeting card! The shop assistants are very kind, but I’d like to be able to know what shop I’m in.” Padma said the shopping centre prides itself on catering for people with mobility issues and has a successful induction loop system for people who have hearing difficulties.

“But there is no help for the blind and partially sighted. I want to put us on a level footing with the sighted community by using innovative modern technology,” she said.

The technology involves small beacons that look like smoke alarms being installed outside shops.

A visually impaired person will download a free app that enables their mobile phone to inform them which shop they are walking past.

Padma pitched her idea to the Our MK project, which is run as part of MK:Smart, and has been awarded funding to cover the cost of trialling the equipment at thecentre:mk.

She is now awaiting a date for the trial to begin.

In Milton Keynes more than 1,100 people are registered with sight loss.

Around 100 new people each year are being added, said Padma.

The management team at thecentre:mk has welcomed anything that can make life easier for shoppers who are blind or partially sighted.

Centre director Kevin Duffy said: “centre:mk has always prided itself on its focus on accessibility and anything that can improve the experience of our blind and partially sighted visitors will be a welcome addition to the centre. “As a listed building we always face unique challenges but we hope a successful trial will enable a system of this nature to be installed in centre:mk.”