A Sunderland MP has raised concerns about the safety of streets for blind and partially sighted people.
The Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson – who is also Shadow Minister for Public Health – spoke with the charity Guide Dogs at the recent Labour Party conference about the challenges blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets.
Some of the challenges, such as pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces, can cause problems for people with sight loss. Pavements are often blocked by parked cars and other obstacles such as wheelie bins and overhanging branches, regularly forcing pedestrians to walk into the road, putting them in danger of oncoming traffic. Shared space streets, where vital features such as kerbs and controlled crossings are removed, can also be dangerous and disorientating for those with sight loss.
Sharon Hodgson MP said: “It was great to speak with the charity Guide Dogs recently about all of the obstacles people with sight loss face when navigating our local area. People with sight loss shouldn’t be fearful of leaving the house and should be able to live independently.
I want streets that work for blind and partially sighted people. That is why I am pleased to support Guide Dogs’ campaign to tackle the most common hazards on our streets.”
To tackle the most common dangers for people with sight loss, Guide Dogs has called for 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.
Helen Honstvet, Senior Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “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.”
Ms Hodgson learnt of the risks and challenges faced by those with sight loss after taking part in the Guide Dogs version of the ‘Navigation Game’ – a take on the classic final challenge of the Generation Game. The MP had to memorise some of the hazards a guide dog owner may encounter on a typical journey.
The charity Guide Dogs provide services to the 360,000 people who are registered blind or partially sighted, and the two million people in the UK living with sight loss. You can find out more about Guide Dogs and the work they do by visiting their website here.