WALKING around an historic market town should be a pleasure – but Meon Valley MP George Hollingbery has now experienced how different it can be if you’re visually-impaired.
He put himself in the shoes of some of his constituents yesterday as he took to the streets of Wickham blindfolded in a bid to understand problems faced every day by visually-impaired people.
Accompanied by Walker, an 18-month-old guide dog, Mr Hollingbery managed to negotiate his way around The Square.
During the 20-minute stroll, the MP was forced to make numerous stops to allow for oncoming traffic – a problem he quickly picked up on.
‘It was a fascinating experience,’ Mr Hollingbery said.
‘I was extremely nervous before I started but this is something people experience every day.
‘The difficult bit was crossing the road as I was completely at the mercy of all the people going around me.
‘It was really scary.’
The walk was arranged by the charity Guide Dogs.
Organiser Katie Smith, from Guide Dogs, said: ‘Getting the MP to walk around blindfolded highlights a number of issues.
‘There’s no tactile paving anywhere on The Square and there are a lot of crossings to islands but no signals for visually-impaired people.
‘It showed George some of the things that are clear to those who can see, but for visually-impaired people are important.
‘We need to allow people to have more freedom when they walk around.’
Mr Hollingbery added: ‘This was an opportunity to find out exactly what it means to have the right road marks and pavements that tell blind people when roads stop and start.
‘Until you have done it, you don’t have an understanding about how the world feels and how huge barriers like these things can be.’