Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, spoke with the charity Guide Dogs at the Labour Party conference about the challenges that blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets, including pavement parking and street clutter.
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 the MP for Blaenau Gwent 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.
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.
Nick Smith MP said: “We have a lot of narrow streets in Blaenau Gwent and even the slightest obstruction can make getting around very difficult for people with sight loss.
“I spoke with a constituent of mine in Abertillery last year about many of the same issues that Guide Dogs are raising with this campaign.
“I remember him telling me how he often is forced to step into the road – where he is unsure if a vehicle may be oncoming – because a car or other unnecessary obstruction is blocking the pavement.
“I fully support this campaign. We can all do our bit to make life easier for our neighbours with sight loss.”
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.”
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