Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
I was apprehensive when Putnoe resident, Barbara Norton, encouraged me to take part in a “Blind Fold” walk so I could experience first-hand the challenges that blind and partially sighted people have getting about Bedford. I needn’t have been as I was in the safe hands of supporters from the Guide Dogs as well as two wonderful Guide Dogs, Layla and Tommy.
First task: getting to the bus stop and while Barbara, guided by Tommy, stormed on ahead, I was proceeding slowly, noticing every crack and divot in the pavement with my cane.
A few weeks ago, I asked questions in Parliament about the Government’s plans to roll out audio visual prompts in buses and having caught the bus in to town as part of the Blind Fold walk, I now appreciate how helpful it would be to have my stop announced. We have “Talking Buses” in London, so why not in Bedford?
My next encounter was navigating A boards, wheelie bins and an unexpected double glazing stall as I walked from the High Street to Harpur Square. I know the town well, but what I learned was that you can never be certain that something new might not be in your way on any particular day. No damage done, though I did apologise to a street sign for bumping into it.
I was told afterwards that my Blind Fold walking was a little wayward, so I am grateful to the people who had to dodge out of my way and who were, in almost all cases, very understanding.
At the end of my journey, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but I can’t help thinking that in a truly equal society, getting from A to B should not require such exertion. There are so many small changes that could make such journeys easier.
For more information about Guide Dogs UK’s Talking Buses Campaign, visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/campaigns/talkingbuses