Andrea Meets Guide Dogs

“I want streets that work for blind and partially sighted people”

I was pleased to speak with the charity ‘Guide Dogs’ at the Conservative Party conference about the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets, including pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.

Pavements blocked by parked cars or street clutter such as wheelie bins and overhanging branches can force pedestrians to walk into the road, putting them in danger of oncoming traffic.

Shared space streets, where vital safety features such as kerbs and controlled crossings are removed, can also be dangerous and disorientating for people with sight loss.

To illustrate these risks, Guide Dogs asked me to take a trip down memory lane and play their ‘Navigation Game’ – a take on the classic final challenge of the Generation Game – memorising the hazards that a guide dog owner might encounter on a typical journey.

Guide Dogs are calling for action on the most common dangers for people with sight loss, including a new law limiting pavement parking to areas determined by the local council, action from local authorities on street clutter and a safety review of existing shared space schemes.

Last year I walked blindfolded on Morley High street with Guide Dogs. This gave me an understanding of the difficulties and hurdles that blind and partially sighted people face every day of their lives. It was difficult to walk along the pavement because of cars parked and various obstacles. Rules against pavement parking and other obstacles should be acted upon and the Government might consider whether to enforce a blanket ban on this practice.