Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West, recently took the reins and temporarily experienced what it feels like to lose the sense of sight and walk guided by an assistance dog.
Local guide dog owners challenged Alex to take a blindfolded walk around Headingley to raise awareness of the problems many blind and partially sighted people face on a day-to-day basis.
Alex was expertly guided by Star, a Golden Retriever German Shephard cross and the pair braved strong winds and heavy rain on their walk. The journey took them around cars parked on pavements, street works, crossings, uneven pavements and street furniture.
Following the guided Mr Sobel said: “It has been a humbling experience to learn first-hand what Guide Dog owners have to go through every day. Something as simple as walking down the local high street became a huge challenge. Thankfully I had Star there to keep me safe! I want to thank Guide Dogs and the service users I met for taking the time to talk to me about their experiences and what is an important political issue.”
After the walk Alex spoke in depth with local guide dog owners with in his constituency about their experiences and how it had felt to navigate around Leeds busy streets.
Guide dog owner Joan spoke to Alex about her first hand experienced and the challenges that cars illegally parked on pavements can cause. She said “Cars parked on pavements are a real problem where I live, and especially for me. People often park on the pavements without any thought for how anyone is going to get past without walking on the road. It’s very dangerous.”
Debbie Linford, Engagement Officer at Guide Dogs UK said, “The aim of today is to highlight to Alex the difficulties people with sight loss face in our community.
Parking on the pavement can be extremely dangerous. Drivers may not always realize, but cars parked on the pavement put people with sight loss and other vulnerable pedestrians in danger. Imagine being forced to step out into a busy road because the footpath is blocked especially when you can’t see. We know the problem can be so bad that people with sight loss simply don’t leave the house to do all the things others take for granted.”
The charity Guide Dogs for the Blind is calling for nationwide law to end inconsiderate and unnecessary pavement parking and would like the Government to make pavement parking a clear offence, except where there is an exemption in place from the local council.
If you would like to discover more about Guide Dogs and help us to change the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted, please visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus