Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, met with the charity Guide Dogs at the Conservative Party conference, and discussed 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 Giles 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.
And in response to this issue, 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.
Giles Watling MP said:
“I really valued the opportunity to speak with Guide Dogs at conference, as many constituents asked me to do, and I came away with a new appreciation of the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face. We must do more about this in Parliament, and I will look at how I can push this forward.
“I do have some personal experience of this, having twice walked our streets wearing total blackout goggles. All I had was a white stick to feel my way, whilst contending with traffic sounds, badly parked cars, and street furniture. Guide Dogs can be invaluable aids for those who deal with this on a daily basis.”
Helen Honstvet, Senior Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:
“The street environment has a huge impact on people with sight loss. When a street is blocked with obstacles or lacks vital safety features, it can make the difference between getting out and about with confidence or feeling forced to stay at home. We’re calling for action to tackle the most common hazards that affect blind and partially sighted people on their local streets: pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.”