WATCH: What it's like to be blind - mayor's blindfolded walk through town centre
PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 March 2019
Mayor of Ipswich Jane Riley was blindfolded on a walk through the town centre to learn more about the daily obstacles blind and partially sighted people face.
The mayor tried to make her way through the town’s streets on a wet and windy lunchtime, then followed it with a question and answer session to hear the concerns those with sight problems have when trying to live their day-to-day lives.
She was joined by guide dog users and partially sighted people, as well as representatives from the Guide Dogs charity.
After walking around the town centre, blindfolded and with a walking cane in hand, Mayor Riley said: “This is an area I know really well.
“We walked just past my office, a way I’ve walked for 30 years, so it’s very peculiar getting lost there.
“You see where you are going normally so you are not worried about things like barriers or A-boards or people walking in front of you - or sometimes even the pavement being too uneven.”
As she made her way through Ipswich’s tight alleys and between the market stalls next to the Cornhill she discovered she “kept walking to the left” if not led by her guide for the day, Helen Sismore from Guide Dogs in East Anglia.
On a day with loud winds and busy traffic, it can become even more difficult to rely on your sense of hearing to keep you away from hazards.
“It’s the unknown and unexpected that is the hardest to deal with,” added Mayor Riley.
“If there wasn’t someone next to you telling you what is around, you wouldn’t be able to be independent.”
A campaign called Take the Lead, led by Guide Dogs and Ipswich Borough Council, came in the wake of repeated attacks on guide dogs in the county in 2018.
Emma Free, a partially sighted mother of two, described the four attacks Ivy - her Golden Retriever guide dog - suffered in just 18 months as “like being trapped in a horror film”.
Ally, a black Labrador owned by Carolyn Allum, was attacked six times and was forced to retire after the trauma of the incidents made her unable to work around other dogs.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin also took part in a blindfold walk around Ipswich to try to encourage responsible dog ownership to prevent pets attacking guide dogs.