HARBOROUGH MP Sir Edward Garnier was blindfolded and taken around Harborough town centre by a guide dog as part of a campaign to improve accessibility for blind people.
The campaign, spearheaded by Guide Dogs for the Blind, hopes to persuade councils to consult with them in the early stages of redevelopment planning of town centres.
In order better to understand the challenges Guide Dog users face in towns, Sir Edward was blindfolded and taken round Harborough town centre by guide dog “Ailsa” and instructor Alison Ashley.
Sir Edward said: “We all want to see town centres improved but the improvements should benefit all users. If consideration is given to the blind and partially sighted it also benefits many other minority groups including the elderly, children and wheelchair users.
“Whatever happens we must not create no-go areas for pedestrians. Equally I do not want to see road works ruining my retailing constituents trade in the run up to Christmas.
“When you rely on a guide dog, you realise just how important kerbs and crossings are and how hazardous street furniture can be. Guide dogs offer blind and partially sighted people a remarkable amount of independence, but careless town planning can threaten that freedom and that is what we need to avoid.”
Guide Dogs engagement officer Jackie Elshaw said: “At Guide Dogs we are committed to ensuring that all blind and partially sighted people can enjoy the same freedom of movement as everybody else. But the reality is that they have to overcome extraordinary challenges everyday to do the things that the rest of us take for granted. It is only by having the opportunity to talk with people like Sir Edward that we can talk about the issues.”
Sir Edward added: “I will support Guide Dogs wherever possible in their campaigns and look forward to being kept informed of the work being done by the charity and the issues facing blind and partially sighted people.”