30 NOV 2015

Helen Grant MP takes the Blindfold Challenge

Promoting the 'My Guide' partnership scheme for the blind and partially sighted

Maidstone & The Weald MP Helen Grant walked blindfolded through the streets of Maidstone on Friday last week to help promote the My Guide campaign devised by Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Starting at 2:30pm on Station Road and led by Gordon the Guide Dog, Helen passed Maidstone Museum before walking through a very busy Fremlin Walk shopping centre. Helen then took up a 'long cane' to walk up Earl Street amidst a flurry of delivery trucks and pavement obstacles before concluding the challenge by walking back along Week Street toward Maidstone East with a sighted guide by her side.

Helen said 'To walk through the centre of Maidstone blind-folded, amidst busy shoppers and noisy lorries on a Friday afternoon, is unnerving to say the least'.

'It was an enlightening illustration of the challenges blind and partially sighted people face every day. It heightened within me the need to deal with problems such as pavement parking and asking drivers to modify the speed at which they pass people with a guide dog or a cane. I understand that to train as a volunteer in the My Guide programme only takes around a day and I would urge people to put themselves forward. It is a fun, flexible and very fulfilling role'.

Guide Dogs for the Blind engagement officer Hetal Bapodra said "We feel it's crucial that Guide Dogs work closely with local MPs as it can highlight the key issues currently facing the sight loss community. We offer the blindfold challenge as a way for MPs to experience what it might be like for someone living with sight loss.

Helen Grant MP bravely undertook the blindfold challenge, experiencing the 3 forms of mobility used by blind or partially sighted people, when travelling independently.

Guide Dogs not only enable people with a vision impairment to travel as safely as possible with the form of mobility they choose; we also campaign hard to make sure that the environment is as accessible and safe as possible. Issues such as parked cars on pavements and street clutter mean that no matter how mobile a person with sight loss may be; they may still face many unnecessary barriers when travelling independently.

Without the support of local MPs, such as Helen Grant, it would be almost impossible to affect change."

Details of the My Guide service can be found here

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