A housing association has won a top honour for the innovative design of a flagship development which makes life easier for tenants with sight loss.
Cartrefi Conwy have received a Platinum Visibly Better award from RNIB Cymru (Royal National Institute of Blind People) for features to help visually impaired people at the Cysgod y Gogarth apartments in Llandudno.
Design features included correcting levels of lighting and improving the contrast between colours used to decorate the 26 apartments.
The ground-breaking £4.2 million scheme development also sets new standards in energy efficiency.
The award was presented by John Ramm, chair of RNIB Cymru, who is himself blind.
John, also a drummer with classic Wrexham-based rock band, 40 Day, said: “RNIB Cymru’s Visibly Better awards make a huge difference to the lives of tenants. Often the changes are very simple but lead to a reduction in falls and accidents.
“Organisations such as Cartrefi Conwy work with us towards various standards. They receive bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels of accreditation as they progress.
“To receive the platinum award, which is the highest award, it shows that Cartrefi Conwy has gone above and beyond to help tenants and visitors to Cysgod y Gogarth who have full or partial sight loss.
“It shows that managers have listened to tenants, taken their views on board and incorporated those views in the design of Cysgod y Gogarth.
“The work done at Cysgod y Gogarth and what has been incorporated into the design of apartments makes life much easier for tenants.
“For example, increasing lighting levels or ensuring the colour of kitchen worktops contrasts with the colour of the floor, and that bathrooms aren’t totally white. These changes make life so much easier for people who have sight loss.”
“We know that one in five people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss, and that sight loss is set to double in the next 25 years. I congratulate Cartrefi Conwy for achieving the highest level, a platinum award, helping to make every day better for people with sight loss.”
The design has gone down well with tenants like Rose Haycock, 60, who says that Cysgod y Gogarth is “a wonderful place to live”.
She said: “It’s really is reassuring to know if my eyesight was to deteriorate at some point in the future Cartrefi Conwy has already taken the necessary action that would allow me to remain living independently in my own home.
David Walkins, RNIB Cymru’s Visibly Better Co-ordinator, added: “Cartrefi Conwy hasn’t just done what the Welsh Government asked them to do they have gone much further and listened to what we asked them to do.
“It’s subtle, Cysgod y Gogarth appears to be just a beautiful apartment block, which it is, but the sight loss scheme kicks in when you look at the colour contrast, the large print on signs and the use of braille.
“Importantly staff members are trained to understand sight loss issues and the effects of macular degeneration.”
“Simple things such as moving away from using white handrails against a white tiled or painted wall make a difference.
“Ensuring the colour contrast is there in kitchens so tenants with sight impairment aren’t struggling to find, for example, tablets on a worktop.”
Cartrefi Conwy’s director of operations, Gwynne Jones, was delighted to receive the award.
He said: “I really hope the work we have done for our tenants is of benefit to those with sight impairment.
“When we thought about the design of Cysgod y Gogarth, which is a building of 26 one and two bedroom apartments specifically designed for tenants over 60, we had in mind they need to be life-time homes.
“We want tenants to live here, independently as long as they are able. And Cysgod y Gogarth is more than just a housing scheme; it’s a hub for the wider community.
“We want to encourage and promote interaction through social activities and events led by tenants.
“And to do that and to work toward or ethos of creating communities to be proud of, we had to consider the needs of those with partial or total sight loss.
“We have, by law, to comply with Welsh Government standards but we wanted to go further than that and comply with RNIB standards.
“It really is a very big honour to receive this Visibly Better award and I’m proud of what we, as an organisation, have achieved.”
Llandudno’s out-going mayor, Frank Bradfield, attended the presentation of the Visibly Better Cymru Award and said: “It’s a wonderful award. I have had the pleasure, while being mayor of Llandudno, of seeing Cysgod y Gogarth being built.
“To have housing of this quality and high standard here in Llandudno is wonderful. Cartrefi Conwy has to be, in my opinion, the best housing association in Wales.
“The evidence is there for all to see, the work they have done, and are doing, in building communities is amazing and the staff are incredibly hard working.”
Gareth Jones, Cartrefi Conwy’s Development Committee chairman, said: “It really is a fabulous award. Cysgod y Gogarth is a wonderful development that is making a real difference to the lives of tenants.
“We wanted to build homes for life and help people to live independently for longer and I believe we have achieved that.”
For more information about RNIB Cymru’s work visit rnib.org.uk/Cymru