Civic leaders get an insight into problems of the blind

Walkies: Guide dog takes the lead as Coun Gareth Molineux tries the blindfold test
Walkies: Guide dog takes the lead as Coun Gareth Molineux tries the blindfold test
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Guide dogs give councillors the blindfold test around the busy streets of a city centre.

Council chiefs took the lead to experience the problems blind and partially-sighted people face getting around a busy city centre.

Five of Lancashire County Council’s senior politicians were blindfolded, handed a guide dog and asked to negotiate the streets of Preston, roadworks and all.

And the experience proved a real eye-opener for the civic party who were forced to rely on their highly-trained canine helpers Voss, Gilbert, Vadar and Nutmeg to keep them safe.

Council leader Jennifer Mein, deputy leader David Borrow, cabinet members Matthew Tomlinson and Azhar Ali and disabled champion Gareth Molineux were all left in no doubt just what everyday difficulties the visually impaired face in the hustle and bustle of a shopping trip.

Coun Molineux said: “As the county council’s champion for disabled people, I was keen that my colleagues and I experienced for ourselves what it’s like to be a visually impaired person depending on a guide dog for mobility.

“What we soon realised is that these dogs are well-trained and completely focused on keeping us safe. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive at first but my concerns were soon allayed.

“I’d like to thank the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association for their expert help to organise this event. Thanks to people like them, people like me are much better informed on the issues and challenges that affect blind and partially sighted people.”

The route chosen for the experiment included the much-publicised roadworks in the Fishergate area of Preston, along with some of the side streets.

Emma Allen-Taylor, engagement officer for Guide Dogs for the Blind, said: “We were delighted that the senior county councillors took the opportunity to join a blindfold walk.

“The walk through Fishergate highlighted how difficult it can be for people with a visual impairment to negotiate shared space environments. This gave councillors a real insight into the everyday difficulties, such as navigating through a busy location and safely crossing the road. We are always keen to work with councillors and town planners when any area is redeveloped.”