PARTS of Cardiff have been labelled no-go areas for the blind and partially sighted.
Nathan Foy from Guide Dog Cymru identified Queen Street and St Marys Street as “no go areas” which are “not worth bothering with” if you are blind.
The main issue comes from what is known as shared surfaces. These are places where pedestrians use the same area as bikes and cars. Bikes are a particular problem as they are silent vehicles that cannot be heard by the blind.
Mr Foy, 35, who also represents England’s visually impaired cricket team, said: “Queen Street has a restraining order on cycling. However when we went down to collect money for guide dogs in October we counted someone on a bike every four minutes.
“The street is already an attack on the senses. There are street sellers and music blasting out of the shops and sandwich boards outside the stores.
“St Mary’s Street is also bad. To make it more cosmopolitan they have let the restaurants spill out onto the street. This makes the dog want to lead you down the middle of the road but that’s where the delivery vehicles and bikes are.”
As well as bikes the emergence of quiet hybrid cars also poses a problem. The European Parliament has just passed legislation saying all hybrid and electric cars will have to make noise by 2019.
Noise and obstacles are not the only issues for Cardiff’s visually impaired. Lack of curbs in pedestrian areas are also an issue. Jackie Clifton MBE, 65, works at the Royal College of Music and travels from Cardiff to London regularly. She is blind and relies on her Alsatian, Henna, to guide her.
She said: “Pedestrian precincts can be a problem, I don’t go into them often. Dogs use curbs as a reference point and can get confused when there are none. My bank is in Working Street and I will cut through the indoor market and church yard to avoid them (pedestrian precincts).”
Ms Clifton also regards other off the lead dogs as a potential risk. She said: “Dogs off the lead have been known to attack guide dogs. Quite often in that situation dogs are so traumatised they cannot work again and that is £50,000 down the drain.”
The initial training cost of guide dogs is estimated at £20,000. Over the working life of a dog, which can be up to 9 years, this can rise to £50,000.
As well as the financial cost there is a real shortage of guide dogs in the UK and dog on dog attacks cuts into the already low supply. There are an estimated 12 attacks a month on guide dogs and only 5,000 fully trained dogs in total. If you compare this to two million blind or partially sighted people and the desperate need for more guide dogs is clear.
To combat this the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was passed in 2014. This means that allowing your dog to attack an assistance dog is an aggravated offence and can result in up to three years in prison.