Mayor to go blind to raise awareness of the Guide Dog Association’s work

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL

Dereham mayor Hilary Bushell. Picture: DEREHAM TOWN COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

The mayor of Dereham is going to experience what life is like for people who are blind by trying to navigate the streets blindfolded.

Guide Dogs. Picture: Ian Burt

Guide Dogs. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Mayor Hilary Bushell will be taking part in the experience with Guide Dogs for the Blind, who will be visiting the town on March 1.

A team from the guide dogs charity will first take Ms Bushell around the streets blindfolded and highlight the many difficulties a blind person has to deal with day-to-day.

After her first attempt to navigate the streets without sight, she will be asked to try using a white stick to aid her ability to get around.

Ms Bushell said the idea to take part originated during a bowls match attended by people with sight disabilities.

'It was a brilliant event and great to see how well people with sight disabilities were able to bowl, getting 8 to 10 strike,' she said.

'Whilst I was there I ordered a Guide Dog puppy toy, and it was when this was delivered that I had the opportunity to talk to Graham Darken about the work of the Guide Dog Association.

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'It was not long before it was agreed that they would attend a full council meeting on March 13 to tell councillors of the work that they do, and how A Boards and cars parked on pavements are so very dangerous to them when they are trying to walk round the town.

'This is on top of issues raised about obstacles such as bad pavements. So with these thoughts I was asked if I, as Mayor, would be prepared to walk blind fold round the town for about one hour.

'The first half an hour with someone giving me help, the second half an hour by using a white stick and trying to negotiate on my own – although I will be watched to make sure that I am kept safe.'

During her walk through the town Ms Bushell will also be joined by a number of people with their guide dogs.

Several council members will also join the Mayor in the market place to help raise awareness for the charity, including Norfolk County Councillor Philip Duigan, Breckland District Councillor, Linda Monument and Ben Rayner from Norfolk County Council's Highways team.

In May 2017, Stagecoach bus drivers in Kings Lynn took part in a similar awareness event with Guide Dogs for the Blind, which saw them attempt to board a bus and find a seat while blindfolded.