A visually impaired man has spoken out after he had his cane grabbed and was accused of not being “properly blind”.
Donald Gaskell was walking along Hall Lane in Mawdesley to a shop on Thursday, January 3 when he stopped near the war memorial to allow a woman to pass.
Mr Gaskell, who has Diabetic Retinopathy and very little peripheral vision, says he politely smiled at the woman who then scowled before she subjected him to a shocking tirade of abuse.
Reliving the incident Mr Gaskell told how the woman accused him of not being “properly blind” and said that he had no right to the cane before attempting to grab it from his hands.
The 60-year-old, who and is registered Sight Impaired and who lives in Stocks Hall care home, said: “This whole incident has been so shocking and has left me feeling quite vulnerable. It was completely unexpected and deeply hurtful and offensive.
“She told me that she had paid for my cane with her taxes and then she tried to take my cane away.
“She then said I bet you live in that fancy care home up there and then suggested that she paid for that too.
“I am completely dependent on my cane when I am out and about as I cannot see my feet or the floor when I walk due to my lack of peripheral vision and deteriorating sight loss.
“I use the cane to feel the edges of kerbs and dips in the road. Without it I’d be worried about tripping and hurting myself.
“I do have some vision, but believe me when I say that I need my cane. I think her comments were just so ignorant.
“If you see somebody using a cane or with a guide dog who appears to be able to see, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need that dog or cane.”
The local sight loss charity Galloway’s, has condemned the attack and is now calling on members of the public who experience or witness disability hate crimes to get in touch with the police.
CEO of Galloway’s, Stuart Clayton, said: “This was a completely abhorrent incident and we are doing all we can to help the gentleman involved.
“We usually find that members of the public are very supportive of blind and partially sighted people.
“But this goes to show that we still have work to do to dispel common misconceptions around the visually impaired community.
“The overwhelming majority of people who use canes or guide dogs will still have some vision.
“Despite this limited vision, they may still experience difficulties in their day to day lives and may be in need of extra support or equipment.
“This verbal attack on this gentleman who was just going about his day-to-day business is completely unacceptable.
“Thankfully, Donald has escaped relatively unharmed, but we know that this has affected his confidence.
“For this to happen to somebody who has worked so hard to maintain their independence is utterly shameful.”
Lancashire Police are now investigating the incident as a disability hate crime and are appealing for witnesses to come forward.
Chief Inspector Ian Mills said: “Hate crime in any form is wrong, it attacks people for who they are and as a result has an increased impact on that person.
“It is important that if you have been a victim of a hate crime or if you witness one that you report it.
“You may feel that the incident is too minor to bother the police but reporting it makes a difference – to you, your friends, and your community.
“Under-reporting is a major issue in relation to all hate crime.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting log reference 0779 of January 4, 2019.