Hetal And NessieHetal Bapodra, Hetal's guide dog Nessie and support worker Louise make up the engagement team for Maidstone. Engagement is a crucial part of the Maidstone mobility team and works alongside all other departments. Part of the job is to highlight current campaigns which Guide Dogs are running. Some of the campaigns which have been running are detailed below.

Talking buses is the campaign to have audio visual on board all buses to announce next stops and destinations.

Streets Ahead is where we campaign for A-boards and street clutter to be put out on high streets in a safe way considering long cane users. Please help us with this by writing to your local paper to help support this campaign. Street clutter can also include shared surface schemes among redeveloped towns which can be extremely dangerous for all pedestrians.

Another campaign we need your help with is our Safe and Sound campaign. Electric, hybrid and quiet combustion engines can be a hazard for all blind and partially sighted people because if we can't hear them coming down the road we could step out in front of the car without knowing it is there.

Engagement also deal with any access issues our guide dog owners face. At the moment there is an extreme rise in guide dog owners being refused access to taxis. We are trying to work with local licensing authorities and taxi companies to educate all drivers across Kent and East Sussex about the issues faced by guide dog owners and why leaving them without a taxi can be terrifying. Access issues also include restaurants, theatres, local attractions and property.

We also work with local organisations and hospitals to make accessing these places easier. Alongside the My Guide ambassador we deliver sighted guide training so that members of staff are confident to assist a blind or partially sighted person not only at work but also in their day to day lives outside of work.

Educating the public is a slow process but we will continue to work with all departments to continue raising awareness of Guide Dogs for the Blind and all of the amazing work they do.