MP takes on blindfold walk challenge

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill took on a blindfold walk challenge to understand the dangers blind and partially sighted people face every day.

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 4:25 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th July 2019, 3:01 pm
MP Mike Hill discovers the perils of wheelie bins during his blindfold challenge, watched by mobility specialist David Waterfall Brown

The walk, organised by the Guide Dogs charity and Hartlepool Blind Welfare, took place in a busy residential area of Hartlepool, and gave the MP a new perspective on how hard simple everyday journeys can be for people with sight problems.

Supported by orientation and mobility specialist, David Waterfall-Brown, Mr Hill found himself forced to walk out on to busy roads by vehicles parked on the pavement.

This, coupled with overhanging hedges and wheelie bins, make it impossible to keep to footpaths and leaving the pavement creates a raft of new dangers.

Overgrown hedges and signposts cause problems for blindfolded MP Mike Hill

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Following the walk, Mr Hill met members of Hartlepool Blind Welfare and local guide dog owners.

The group explained some of the issues they face every day which affect their independence, including being refused a taxi because of their guide dog and difficulty of getting around a shared surface, where there is no delineation between the road and the pavement.

He said “Taking part in this event has been a humbling experience. It was difficult to consider the barriers, both physical and mental, that blind people must face every time they leave the house,

“It was incredibly moving to hear accounts of people being refused taxi services because of their assistance dog and of the difficulties experienced with accessibility in certain public

spaces.

"I will be lobbying both the Government and Hartlepool Borough Council to help ensure that blind and partially sighted people and their assistance dogs get the respect that they deserve.”

Linda Oliver, engagement officer for Guide Dogs North East said: "Cars parked on pavements are an everyday nightmare for blind and partially sighted people, as well as to other vulnerable pedestrians. People with sight loss are too often forced out into busy roads because of inconsiderate motorists.”

“It's an unwanted barrier to the freedom and independence a guide dog brings. It is really encouraging that Mike has taken up the challenge and is prepared to support our campaigns."