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TfB Director gets taster of what it's like being visually impaired

Simon Dando on walk

2:01pm 14th November 2016

The Contract Director of Transport For Bucks got to experience a taster of what it's like to be visually impaired.

Simon Dando was escorted around Aylesbury in vision loss simulation eyewear by Lisa Bryant and Loretta Knibbs from the charity Guide Dogs, to provide him with an impression of what people who are visually impaired have to deal with every day.

They hoped the walk would be educational for Simon, as well as raise awareness of the work the charity does as well as of sight conditions in general.

The experience first came about after Lisa had emailed Transport for Bucks asking if they had any spare, out-of-service 'wait' boxes they could have.

She said:

“I emailed TfB on the off chance that they may have one no longer in use which we might have, and I was so pleased that they managed to produce three for us. The visually impaired children we work with really benefit from getting used to the feel of everyday objects in their home environment before attempting to experience them for real in the outside world. Often children have other issues as well as visual impairment, for instance they may have anxieties, or ‘tactile defensiveness’ which means they have an aversion to touch sensations. Allowing them to become familiar with the ‘wait’ box while still in their comfort zone, and not out in a busy street, will be really valuable in our work. It will make a real difference in educating visually impaired children about road safety.”

With Lisa Bryant and Loretta Knibbs from the charity guide dogs

Loretta Knibbs, Simon Dando and Lisa Bryant

To gain a better understanding of the challenges visually impaired people face, director Simon Dando decided to take the 'blind challenge', which involved him wearing the vision loss simulation eyewear whilst walking towards the train station from County Hall. 

Speaking of the challenge, Simon said:

"As a fully sighted person I'm probably making a lot of assumptions about how visually impaired people are doing with our infrastructure and how they get safely around from place to place.

I decided to take up the blind challenge, and see what I could understand and learn and see whether I could use it to influence how we put our infrastructure out on the network.

I used three sets of different glasses that simulate different visual impairments.

The first was diabetic retinopathy. You get these black spots where the retina has been damaged as part of the diabetes. What that does is black out part of your vision, so you have to be constantly vigilant as to what's in the black areas, constantly looking left and right.

It was interesting, great expanses of single colour around the town can be quite confusing, so we need to think about what we put on to those sort of services to assist people with this condition.

The next one was tunnel vision. I couldn't see a panoramic view - it was like watching two TV screens at the same time. A car would pass from one eye to another, and you were having to anticipate speed and direction which slows you down.

The final, and probably most disconcerting was the light perception only spectacles. You couldn't see any discerning shapes but just shadow and light.

Simon Dando on walk

Simon being guided by Lisa

"To be guided across one of the busiest roads of Aylesury; I was very conscious of the assistance Lisa was giving me. It was really apparent, with all the noise that was going on, that that assistance was needed."

“I have so much respect for Lisa and Loretta, who guided me through the streets with care and professionalism. The sensation of stepping into the road without being able to see everything I usually can was really unnerving. It was an education for me, and going through the experience of relying on the tactile cone on the wait boxes helped me to understand why Lisa and Loretta wanted the three out-of-service wait boxes, which I was more than happy to donate to them.” 

You can watch a video of Simon's experience below.

Find out more about the charity here.

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