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Westport man threatens to remove town’s sandwich boards

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READY TO ACT Mick Higgins said he will remove items from Westport footpaths which cause difficulties for people with disabilities.

Anton McNulty

A WESTPORT man has vowed to remove every sandwich board located on footpaths in the town if businesses continue to place them there.
Mick Higgins told The Mayo News that he is angry about the number of sandwich boards and other retail signs and products which are placed on footpaths around Westport, making access difficult for people with disabilities.
Mick’s 29-year-old daughter Emma has been blind from birth and he says every time they go for a walk around the town, he has to keep moving the boards and other items out of her way. He explained he has had enough and threatened to remove the boards if businesses do not.
“I take my daughter for a walk every Sunday and we can’t walk down the street without all these boards, signs and other things in the way. I went to the council and they said they will talk to the businesses but that was six weeks ago and nothing has been done about it. At this stage I have had enough. It has been going on too long and I will remove them all if I have to,” he said.
Mick explained that one evening he removed a sign from a footpath on Bridge Street and was later warned about it by gardaí. He said this will not put him off.
“I love my child and I get angry when I see this carry on. I am telling people now that I will take the signs. I’m a very angry man at the moment and I can get very thick. At this stage I don’t care … I will do jail if I have to,” the former Westport and Mayo Gaelic footballer said.
“Some people are ignorant and don’t seem to care for the difficulties they cause for people with disabilities. It is the same with cyclists cycling on footpaths. It is not just my daughter they are affecting, anyone in a wheelchair has the same problems and it has to stop. Otherwise I will take matters into my own hands,” he warned.
Earlier this year, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland called on the public to be aware of what they place on footpaths and the impact obstacles can have for a person who cannot see them.
Kevin Kelly, head of policy, advocacy and campaigns with NCBI, said: “Living with impaired vision presents many challenges, but one of the most frustrating and confidence-zapping experiences is running the gauntlet of temporary obstacles placed unwittingly on footpaths by the public.
“It takes a lot of courage when you are blind or vision impaired to head out with your cane or guide dog and independently attempt to go about your business. For many, it can feel as if you are playing a never-ending game of pinball, but unfortunately, you are the ball crashing about.”
In 2010, Tidy Towns adjudicators recommended to Westport Town Council to seek the removal of sandwich boards and other signs located on footpaths in the town describing them as ‘untidy’ and added they can ‘cause problems for the disabled’.