Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
MP Nick Smith has called for people in Blaenau Gwent to play their part in making it easier for their neighbours with sight loss to get around the community safely.
The call comes after a plea from constituent Jon Nixey, 53, of Abertillery who is currently on a waiting list for a new guide dog after his canine pal Max died recently.
Mr Nixey, who is blind and also has hearing issues, says he has been left feeling “terrified” at the prospect of tackling the streets of Blaenau Gwent using only his long cane.
He said: “I lost my working guide dog Max to a very sudden and aggressive cancer in his stomach.
“I am utterly totally devastated, and that’s putting it mildly.
“This is the first time since June 1989 that I haven’t had a working guide dog at my side, helping me on a daily basis to get out and around safely.”
Mr Nixey said he is particularly concerned about cars parking on pavements and across tactile crossings, meaning he has to walk into the road to manoeuvre around them.
Mr Nixey explained that some of the other issues he faces daily include people leaving obstructions – such as bins – on the footpath.
He said: “In the past, my guide dogs guided me safely around. I now have to face all this alone.
“I’m terrified to go out of my own front door, not knowing if I’m not going to make it safely back home because I walked out in front of a quiet vehicle that I didn’t hear.
“This isn’t just a local issue either, it’s a problem for many people right across the UK.”
MP Nick Smith said: “I was moved by the letter I received from Mr Nixey highlighting his concerns and after meeting with him I feel these are important issues and he needs our help.
“Having taken part in a Guide Dogs Cymru blindfold walk around Brynmawr earlier this year, I got a sense of just how difficult it is to negotiate our streets when you can’t see.
“Clear pavements are essential for blind and partially sighted people.
“Small changes that people can make to be more considerate – such as not parking on crossings can make such a big difference to people with sight loss.”
Andrea Gordon, Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, added: “Cars parked on pavements are an everyday nightmare for people who are blind and partially sighted, as well as other vulnerable pedestrians, such as wheelchair users and those pushing prams.
“Too often, pedestrians are being forced out into busy roads and into the flow of traffic because an inconsiderate motorist has blocked the pavement. Guide Dogs has been campaigning for a new law to end unsafe pavement parking.
“Individuals can also make their own street safer for their neighbours with sight loss by cutting back overhanging branches, ensuring that bins are not left on the pavement as trip hazards, reporting badly cracked paving slabs and potholes, and cleaning up broken glass, which can injure a guide dog.”