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Leading the blind - police cadets and canine companions experience a world without sight

Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Many of them have lived around North Walsham all of their young lives, but a group of police cadets were thrown into a different world when they went on a stroll around the north Norfolk town.

Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

That is because half of them were wearing blindfolds - accompanied by the others - to experience first-hand the challenges people with visual impairments face.

The cadets, who age from 13 to 17, also had the chance to meet a couple of residents who are legally blind, and the guide dogs who help them make their way around the town.

North Norfolk Chief Inspector Wes Hornigold the session was a useful half-term activity for the police cadets, a programme that only started in the district last October.

He said: “This is to give them an idea of how difficult it can be for people. It’s also helping to raise awareness of guide dogs and guide dog attacks, because if they are attacked it can actually prevent them from becoming a guide dog.”

Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cadet Becky Nicholas, 14, said the experience of wandering around town without seeing it had been disorientating.

She said: “It’s scary not seeing where you are going - even if you know North Walsham pretty well. If people who are blind live here, they would get used to it, but if they go to a new place it would be difficult.”

Paul Monaghan, 47, can only get around North Walsham thanks to his guide dog Gismo, a labrador retriever.

Mr Monaghan said the hazards blind people faced around a town such as his were many.

Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Police and police cadets have a blindfolded walk around North Walsham town centre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

He said: “There are narrow pavements, which at times can be difficult. There are also advertising boards on the pavement, and some drivers who park on tactile pavements.”

Helen Sismore, Guide Dogs’ community engagement officer, said: “There’s 2 million people who are blind or partially sighted in the UK and they need to be able to use their pavements and community safely.

“So many pavements have blockages like cars parked on them, advertising boards, and it stops and impedes their ability to move about and use the pavements safely.

“These sessions are very useful for the cadets because they are in a school environment, and they are then able to go and talk to their peers about the issues and things that sighted people do without thinking.

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