FOR people who are blind or visually impaired, getting around the streets of Portsmouth on a daily basis can be a challenge.
And yesterday MP Flick Drummond experienced what it was like to walk through one of the busiest streets in the city without being able to see – with only a guide dog to lead the way.
It was absolutely terrifying and if I was to lose my sight, it would be very scary.Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond
Mrs Drummond was approached by the Guide Dogs charity to take part in a blindfolded walk to raise awareness of the difficulties blind people face.
Lead by Taylor, a black Labrador, the MP for Portsmouth South walked from her offices at Cumberland Business Centre, up Fratton Road and through the Bridge Shopping Centre before finishing at the Asda store.
Mrs Drummond’s guide dog carefully guided her around various obstacles along the way, including phoneboxes, bus stops and a mobility scooter, and stopped at junctions where there were raised kerbs while traffic came by.
Speaking about the experience afterwards, Mrs Drummond said: ‘It was absolutely terrifying.
‘If I was to lose my sight, it would be very scary.
‘But the guide dog was extraordinary because he was confident and I could feel that as I walked along.
‘I can imagine that they gain that confidence after four weeks of training.
‘He led me around lamp posts and bus stops without me really noticing them there.
‘It’s very important we raise awareness of the challenges blind and visually impaired people face.
‘When I see someone who is blind, I am always looking out to make sure they are okay.
‘It’s important to look out for whether they need help crossing a road.’
Pete Smith, head of mobility services for Guide Dogs in Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Wight, praised Mrs Drummond’s efforts to raise awareness.
He said: ‘We contact all the MPs in the area as a way of giving them the experience of walking through their environment in a different way.
‘It’s so they can understand the difficulties that visually impaired people experience.
‘We have campaigned on issues like pavement parking – if a van is parked on a pavement then where does a guide dog go?
‘It forces them and the person they are with onto the road. Flick has been a supporter of our campaign.’