Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner has walked blindfolded through the centre of Cambridge and caught a bus to the station assisted by a guide dog and sighted guide from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
The MP experienced the everyday hazards of street signs, wheelie bins, lampposts and cars parked on pavements they blind and partially sighted people have to negotiate.
Guide Dogs is calling for a nationwide law on pavement parking in a response to a Government consultation. Guide Dogs want to bring the rest of the country into line with Greater London where pavement parking is prohibited except in areas where it is expressly permitted.
Where cars are parked on pavements people who are blind and partially sighted may have to risk their lives by walking into the road just to get by. This is an issue that also impacts parents with prams, wheelchair users, and older people and many others.
A survey by Guide Dogs showed 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a pavement parked car.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: “Walking through the centre of Cambridge and taking a bus to the station is an everyday experience – but doing it without sight was extraordinary. Disorientating and at times frightening, sounds seemed much louder and frequently inexplicable – were those people laughing at something nearby, or at me? At every moment the risk of collision or stumbling was the dominant thought, and without my careful guide I would have been reluctant to make any progress. Bleeping traffic crossings, textured pavements to indicate crossings, and braille on the bell-push on the bus which I had previously been only vaguely aware of suddenly became very significant. Swapping my everyday life for a brief period coping with visual impairment was a powerful reminder of just how hard it is for some of our fellow citizens, and how we could make life so much easier by removing the obstacles and designing our built environment and services in a way that helps, not hinders.”