Transport services boss experiences life as a visually impaired pedestrian

  |  Published: Nov 14th 2016

Navigating steps, pavements, and crossing the road are things that most of us take for granted, but for the visually impaired these everyday activities can pose a huge challenge. Seemingly simple things, such as taking a short cut through the bus station, might become much more difficult to someone who relies on being able to sense daylight to find their way around. Equally, someone who has vision loss due to diabetes resulting in moving black spots in their field of vision, regular obstacles like bins, bollards, or other pedestrians are hard to perceive.

These were all things Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) contract director Simon Dando experienced when he took on a blind challenge with Lisa Bryant and Loretta Knibbs from the charity Guide Dogs. Lisa and Loretta came to County Hall and took Simon on a short walk towards the train station, including a road crossing, while he tried out different forms of vision loss simulation eyewear. Simon experienced first-hand the immense challenges faced by visually impaired pedestrians, as he learned how to cross the road using only tactile paving underfoot, and the rotating tactile cone on the underside of the crossing 'wait' boxes.  Lisa and Loretta collected three out-of-service 'wait' boxes from Simon after his challenge, for use with visually impaired children in Buckinghamshire and surrounding counties.

Lisa Bryant, who emailed TfB in July enquiring about the possibility of acquiring a 'wait' box, explained: "I emailed TfB on the off chance that they may have one no longer in use which we might have, and I was so pleased that they managed to produce three for us. The visually impaired children we work with really benefit from getting used to the feel of everyday objects in their home environment before attempting to experience them for real in the outside world. Often children have other issues as well as visual impairment, for instance they may have anxieties, or 'tactile defensiveness' which means they have an aversion to touch sensations. Allowing them to become familiar with the 'wait' box while still in their comfort zone, and not out in a busy street, will be really valuable in our work. It will make a real difference in educating visually impaired children about road safety."

Of his brief experience of visual impairment, Simon said: "Even though I was walking a route I know very well, I was very apprehensive and had to put my trust in Lisa completely to guide me in the right direction – I have so much respect for Lisa and Loretta, who guided me through the streets with care and professionalism. The sensation of stepping into the road without being able to see everything I usually can was really unnerving. It was an education for me, and going through the experience of relying on the tactile cone on the wait boxes helped me to understand why Lisa and Loretta wanted the three out-of-service wait boxes, which I was more than happy to donate to them."

Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Transportation, said: "I really admire the work Guide Dogs do, and we were all so pleased to learn that our out-of-service wait boxes could have a second life for such a good cause. I hope Lisa and Loretta find the boxes to be of great value in their work, and well done to Simon for heading out into the pouring rain to do the ‘blind’ experience and learn about the challenges faced by visually impaired people."

A video of Simon’s experience can be found on TfB's YouTube page, www.youtube.com/user/tfbsic or on their Twitter (@TFBalerts) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/transportforbucks) pages.

Simon Dando blind experience Aylesbury
Simon Dando experiences Aylesbury as a blind pedestrian
Simon Dando Guide Dogs charity wait boxes for blind children
Simon Dando with Lisa & Loretta from the Guide Dogs charity and 'wait' boxes for teaching blind children
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