BY SIOBHÁN CRONIN
A WEST Cork goat farmer is helping the Irish Guide Dogs association to raise awareness of pedestrian obstacles for people with sight problems.
Ed Harper, who has been blind since the age of three, lives on Cape Clear island.
The folk singer (68) has a faithful guide dog, Izzy, who helps Ed navigate the rural landscape of Cape Clear where they reside, and the urban streets of Cork city and towns such as Skibbereen. However, Ed frequently finds he is stopped in his tracks due to pavements obstructed by wheelie bins, cars parked on the pavement, street signage and over-hanging branches.
‘Just the other day, I was rushing to get the bus for a business meeting. Izzy stopped as we were hurrying along,’ explained Ed. ‘After some investigation with my hands, I realised a wheelie bin was blocking our path, forcing Izzy and I out onto a busy road in the midst of noisy traffic. It is frustrating encountering these pavement obstacles as you never know what is blocking your path and you are forced to divert from the route you are familiar with. It can be very disorientating.’
Ed has urged people in his local community to sign up to Irish Guide Dogs SmartStreets Hero pledge to keep pedestrian pavements clear of parked cars, wheelie bins and over-hanging hedges.
In doing so, community members will be safe guarding the independence, safety and mobility of Ed and other persons with vision impairments
Irish Guide Dogs is asking people to become a ‘Smart Street Hero’. They hope their campaign will create better awareness of how pavements blocked by parked cars, wheelie bins, over hanging hedges and street furniture, such as shop signage, can impede the independence and mobility of people with vision impairment.
These obstacles force people with vision loss out on to roads in the midst of noisy, fast moving traffic, which they cannot see.
Some of their clients have had injuries walking around their local area. With increased fear, anxiety and a real risk of injury, some feel so intimidated by the risks outside that they end up staying at home and becoming even more isolated.
To show support Irish Guide Dogs want the public to go to their Facebook page, sign up for their SmartStreet Hero pledge and share it with friends. Signing the pledge means the public will make every effort to keep pavements free of obstacles so that blind and vision impaired people will have a clear, safe path to travel.
‘Dealing with issues of poorly parked cars and ill-placed bins is a daily challenge for myself and Izzy,’ added Ed. ‘Often people who are in a hurry do things without thinking. They park awkwardly on footpaths or pop the bin out, leaving it right in my way. In this campaign I hope to help us all see how simple actions can have a larger impact.’