Monday, 11 April 2011

My visit to the Guide Dogs' Training Centre at Atherton

Today, I visited the Guide Dogs' Training Centre at Atherton.

As well as a tour of the centre, I also took on the challenge of a blindfolded walk with Macca, a guide dog in training, to experience the difficulties blind and partially sighted people face in getting out and about and how a guide dog can help them.

My visit follows a reception at the House of Commons about Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign, which is calling for audible and visual announcements to be installed on all new buses to help blind and partially sighted people, as well as those with a range of disabilities. I am supporting the campaign.

I met with Richard Woodcraft, District Team Manager and  I was very impressed by the facilities and the professionalism of staff and volunteers. Undertaking the blindfolded walk with Macca brought home to me the vital role that guide dogs play in assisting people who are blind or suffer from partial sight loss.

A lack of information undermines the confidence and independence of vulnerable people who rely on buses to get around. Blind and partially sighted people, for example, cannot see where they are, and others including wheelchair users who face backwards on vehicles may not easily be able to identify their stop. These people risk ending up at the wrong stop. So I am backing the Guide Dogs Talking Buses Campaign.

There are around 4,500 guide dog partnerships in the UK. More information about the Guide Dogs' can be found here. Guide Dogs celebrates the 80th anniversary of the first guide dog partnerships this year, and a host of events are planned to mark the milestone.

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