A ‘TOUCHY-feely’ approach has helped people with visual impairments have their say on plans for Pembrokeshire’s new £7.5million renal unit.

During Health minister Mark Drakeford’s visit earlier this month, visitors were able to ‘feel’ their way around the site thanks to two specially made tactile plans.

The plans, which use a range of textures with corresponding Braille keys, came about when Pembrokeshire Access Group member Annette Peter suggested they would help blind and visually impaired people get a better idea of the building’s layout and location.

Renal unit project leader Martin Thomas said the designs had been a big success.

“We’re hoping it will be a practice that catches on industry wide.

“It opens up the ability to consult to a greater level with a wider range of people using facilities.

“It’s low-tech, but very effective, and fills a gap that others haven’t filled.”

Alan Hunt, access officer for Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “The level of detail that had been incorporated into the models was impressive, with textured and Braille features and a key so that the different elements of the design proposals could be easily recognised by blind people.”

He added that the model also made good use of colour and tonal contrast so that anyone unaccustomed to architectural drawings would be able to understand the design concept.

Annette said: “It made me feel a lot more included in the process, and when I came in I had a good idea of what was what.

“You’re usually relying on someone to verbalise what’s there – which is very difficult – or you’re completely out of the loop.”

She added that tactile plans could also be used in other areas, such as shopping centres.

“I would like more people to embrace it as an option.”

Supported by Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Access Group is an independent charity that promotes improved access to services and facilities for disabled people.

As well as working with the health board, the group has introduced several initiatives such as beach wheelchairs and the Pembrokeshire Passport - a bright orange wallet with plastic pockets that disabled people can put information in to help make using the bus and train easier and give people more independence.

To find out more about Pembrokeshire Access Group, contact Alan Hunt on 01437 775148 or visit Pembrokeshire-access.org.uk