Today, (21 June 2019) I joined the Guide Dogs charity to experience first hand what it is like to navigate our streets with a guide dog when you have sight loss.
The afternoon was organised by the Guide Dogs charity and allowed me to walk around Flint with guide dog Mason who ensured that I was kept safe whilst walking with his vision impaired.
Along the walk I was able to talk to the charity about the issues they are campaigning on. Two of the big campaigns at the moment are tackling the over-use of street furniture and ensuring that people know it is illegal to refuse access to a premises or mode of transport if they have a guide dog.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. However, a Guide Dogs survey found that three quarters of assistance dog owners reported that they had been refused entry by businesses.
I was joined by Nathan Foy (Engagement Officer for Guide Dogs), Charlie Dale (Access Assistant for Guide Dogs), and Jane Roberts (Orientation and Mobility Specialist for Guide Dogs).
Walking around town with a guide dog is an experience I will never forget. You take for granted being able to move around town unhindered and it is not until you lose one of your senses that you realise how hazardous our pavements can be. Having Mason, the guide dog, by my side was a real comfort. He’s training ensured that he kept me out of trouble and away from any dangers.
But what you quickly realise is that street furniture gets in the way of getting around town. Be it wheelie bins, signs or bicycles parked up, they all can cause trips and falls for someone who is visually impaired. That is why I fully support the Guide Dogs campaign to see street furniture reduced to make our pavements accessible to all.
Listening to the Guide Dogs charity I also learnt that people are still being refused entry into buildings or using public transport because they have a guide dog. Not only is this morally wrong, it is illegal. I will be returning back to Parliament next Monday to raise my concerns with the UK Government and call upon them to take action now. No one should be discriminated because of their disabilities.
“It is really important that member of Parliament understand the challenges the people with sight loss face on a day-to-day basis, just walking around a town like Flint.
“David Hanson MP will better understand the obstacles of how furniture, trees, advertising boards, and how they present everyday challenges to those with sight loss.
I am pleased that David has agreed to take up in Parliament some of the other challenges, such as access to taxis that people with sight loss face.”