Value of green space to people with a late onset visual impairment: a study of people with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in Scotland, United Kingdom
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Having a sight impairment should not limit one’s opportunity to be socially included and obtain the many benefits of being in a green space. It is a challenge for landscape architects to ensure that every green space is sensibly planned and designed to provide benefits to all users, including the visually impaired. However, to date, little research has explored the extent to which this group of people use their local green space and how the attributes of green space help to maintain or increase their sense of emotional well-being, especially when their vision loss occurs later in life. This study has drawn on a sample of visually impaired people with central vision loss caused by late onset Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) from across Scotland to address this research gap. Subjects ranged from being partially sighted to severely sight impaired or blind. It employed a mixed method research strategy with a quantitative method as the main approach, supplemented by qualitative methods and triangulation. The study began with focus group discussions aimed at identifying those green space attributes that this group of people deemed important, as a basis for developing a choice-based conjoint (CBC) questionnaire survey. The survey data were analysed using conjoint analysis software (Sawtooth Software version 8.3) with a Hierarchical Bayesian (HB) method to evaluate the relative importance of green space attributes to the study participants. The purpose of this method was to demonstrate the different priorities placed by people with visual impairment on the physical, social, sensory and accessibility attributes of the green space. This work was followed by a series of walk-along and home interviews to gain an in-depth understanding of how the attributes that emerged as most important from the conjoint survey helped the participants to obtain a restoration of their emotional well-being through being in green spaces. The conjoint analysis results demonstrated that the relative importance of green space attributes differs by gender, visual condition and the emotional state caused by sight loss. The qualitative findings suggest that green space can act as a medium to promote emotional restoration by offering a compatible environment that motivates individuals to undertake the kind of outdoor physical and social activities that reduce social isolation. Taken together, the two most influential factors in relative importance and emotional restoration were individual affordance and social company. The value of this research lies in identifying the landscape design attributes that are of the greatest importance to people with AMD. Such findings could help policymakers and landscape architects to provide better design solutions to include this group of people. They may also prove valuable as part of a new approach to enable people to deal with the emotional issues surrounding their late-onset visual impairment.