Access all Areas
Andrew Gywnne MP for Denton and Reddish has announced that he will introduce a Bill to Parliament to make sure all taxi and minicab drivers have disability equality training. His announcement follows on from attending the Access All Areas Lobby of Parliament last month and hearing from guide dog owners about taxi and minicab drivers refusing to carry guide dogs.
Guide Dogs Campaigns Manager, Helen Honstvet, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Andrew Gwynne MP is taking forward a Bill to ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers have disability equality training. Guide dog owners have told us that taxis and minicabs turn them away with shocking regularity because their dog isn’t welcome. This can crush people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.
“This Bill, if made law, will ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers understand their duties under the Equality Act and improve the experience of getting a taxi for many people living with a disability.”
On announcing his decision to introduce the Bill Mr Gwynne said: “I was very lucky to be drawn in the Private Members’ Bill ballot, and so I am delighted to be able to support this campaign in Parliament.
“It is a fairly small change in the law that will have a huge impact on the ability of blind people to go about their business.”
The Bill’s First Reading will be on 29th June 2016, and the full Bill, with more substantial detail, will be introduced later this year.
Over 100 guide dog owners met MPs in parliament yesterday (25 May 2016) to call on them to support the introduction of tougher laws to prevent shops, taxis, restaurants and other businesses from turning away assistance dog owners.
Despite legal protection, according to our research, seven out of ten guide dog owners have been turned away by a service provider at some point because of their assistance dog. The research also showed that taxi refusals are the most common type of access refusal.
The charity Guide Dogs is campaigning for better enforcement of the law, tougher penalties for taxi drivers who turn away guide dog owners and disability equality training for all taxi and minicab drivers.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager said: “Imagine you were turned away by a shop, restaurant or taxi. This happens to people with shocking regularity because they are accompanied by a guide dog. It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.
“We were pleased that so many MPs met with guide dog owners yesterday and heard their concerns. Now we want to see this support turned into legislation, to ensure that all taxi and minicab drivers receive disability equality training.”
Guide dog owners are being let down because the penalties issued to taxi and minicab drivers who flout the law and refuse to take assistance dogs are woefully inadequate, says the charity Guide Dogs.
New Guide Dogs research highlights that, despite the distress caused by illegal access refusals, the fines that can be issued to drivers who say no to guide dogs are no higher than those given to people who dodge train fares or evade TV licences.
The research is released ahead of a mass lobby on 25 May, which will see more than 100 guide dog owners visiting parliament to call for tougher sentences for taxi and minicab drivers who turn away assistance dog owners.
The Guide Dogs research concludes that prosecutions are rare and fines are low, with some licensing authorities that responded reporting fines as low as £50 to £100.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager, at Guide Dogs said: “Imagine you were turned away by a driver. This happens to people living with sight loss with shocking regularity just because they are accompanied by a guide dog. It’s not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted.
“We want tougher sentences for drivers who turn away assistance dog owners. We would also like to see the introduction of disability awareness training for all taxi and minicab drivers across Britain.”
Guide dog owners are regularly being turned away by businesses, such as taxis, shops and restaurants, according to new research.
The charity Guide Dogs has published new research which shows that, despite legal protection, people who own guide dogs and other assistance dogs are still regularly being turned away by taxis, shops and restaurant because of concerns about their dogs.
The research shows that nearly eight out of 10 (75%) assistance dog owners have at some point been turned away by a business because of their dog. The five types of service provider most likely to turn away a guide dog owner are taxis, restaurants, newsagents or convenience stores, café and high street shops.
James White, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, says: “Guide dog owners, like all assistance dog owners, rely on their dogs to feel confident and supported. Being turned away by a business leaves people feeling angry, upset and embarrassed. It can rob people of their independence and can leave them unable to do the everyday activities such as travel by taxi, go to the local shops, or eat out with their friends or family.
“Despite legal protection across most of the UK, guide dog and other assistance dog owners are still experiencing this form of discrimination every day and this needs to change.”
Guide Dogs is campaigning for politicians and those responsible for taxi licensing to take action to address this issue.
A new smartphone app that provides audio and visual notifications to blind or partially sighted bus passengers does not go far enough to solve the problem, say Talking Buses campaigners from the Guide Dogs charity. The app is launched today (6 March) by two of the UK’s biggest bus groups, First and Arriva, in partnership with the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT).
The charity’s Talking Buses campaign calls for audio-visual next stop and final destination announcements (AV) to be installed on all new buses across the UK.
James White, Guide Dogs Campaign Manager, said: “Guide Dogs believe technology has a crucial role to play in making transport more accessible for people with sight loss. However, smartphone applications cannot replace the need for audio-visual next stop and final destination announcements (AV) to be installed on all new buses.
“Smartphone technology has its limitations – it’s still not an option for those who can’t afford it or aren’t able to use it. There are also areas across the country without signal, and smartphone battery life is notoriously short, which could leave someone stranded. Talking Buses is the only way to make bus travel easier for everyone.”
Buses play a vital role in helping people with a disability, including those with sight loss, to live more independent lives. But the worry of being unsure if you have caught the right bus, where you are on your journey, or when your stop is coming up, puts many people off using them. Audio-visual next stop and final destination announcements are therefore essential.
These views from Guide Dogs echo those of the Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, who last year said, “We need to remember that 19% of families with at least one disabled member live in relative income poverty. For them, smartphones may be too expensive or difficult to use”.
Last week Guide Dogs submitted a response to the Treasury’s Autumn Statement consultation, requesting a fund to support the installation of audio-visual (AV) announcements on board new buses.
Guide Dogs Talking Buses campaign calls for AV next and final stop announcements on board buses across the UK. Currently only 19% of buses have this technology and 97% of these buses are in London. The campaign calls for AV technology to be installed on all new buses to redress this imbalance. This technology is not only vital to support those with sight loss but for other bus users as well, for example older people, those with a hearing impairment, or those unfamiliar with the area such as tourists.
Guide Dogs submission requests the Treasury allocate a fund specifically for the provision of AV announcements on board buses. This fund could either take the form of £5.75 million per annum or a £2-3 million grant fund, depending upon contributions by operators. These figures are based on government figures and research Guide Dogs commissioned by transport consultants the TAS Partnership.
The response was supported by the following organisations:
- Action on Hearing Loss
- Deafblind UK
- Age UK
- The Campaign for Better Transport
- Bus Users UK
- Thomas Pocklington Trust
- Kent Association for the Blind
- Reading Buses
- Nottingham City Transport
When one guide dog owner told Guide Dogs’ Campaigns Team that getting off buses without audio-visual (AV) announcements was like a ‘game of chance’, the inspiration for their most recent Party Conference stand was found.
The team have recently returned from touring their ‘House of Cards’ memory game at the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences.
Over 170 MPs visited the stand during the conferences, the largest number Guide Dogs have ever had. Amongst the visitors were influential ministers including:
- the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
- George Osborne
- Theresa May
- Transport Minister Baroness Kramer
- Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh
The team challenged MPs, councillors and party members to complete a card game of ‘pairs’ matching bus users to their destinations. Playing against the clock, MPs found it difficult to remember all the journeys – listen to an audio description of the game.
Visitors also spun the ‘bus wheel of misfortune’ at the game show-themed stand, playing a ‘game of chance’ on whether they received a give-away or not.
Guide Dogs’ recent Destination Unknown survey showed a shocking seven in 10 passengers with sight loss have been forgotten on a bus, demonstrating the serious side of the memory game and why Guide Dogs is campaigning for talking buses. Only 19% of the UK’s buses are talking, and most of those are in London, acting as a real barrier to independence where AV provides a simple solution.
Guide Dogs is now working on the comprehensive follow up, ensuring this unprecedented support for the campaign from Members of Parliament delivers lots more talking buses across the UK.
James White, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said: “Guide dogs do a fantastic job getting people with sight loss out and about independently. But they aren’t able to tell their owners when to get off a bus. This is why we need the Government to make sure all new buses are accessible to guide dog owners, long cane users, and indeed lots of other members of the public who find audio-visual announcements helpful, for example people who are travelling to unfamiliar places.
“Having a memorable and fun stand at party conferences is a great way to gain support for a campaign amongst influential politicians, and we had really positive response to our activity.”
The public have overwhelmingly backed calls for disability awareness training for all bus drivers in Britain.
A survey by ComRes for the charity Guide Dogs showed that more than 80% of people support the introduction of driver training as it would improve the experience of disabled bus passengers. This comes as the Government reviews whether bus and coach drivers must have disability awareness training.
The UK is currently exempt from a European regulation which makes disability awareness training mandatory for all bus and coach drivers.
In March 2013 the Government promised to review the exemption in a year, now Guide Dogs is urging Transport Minister Baroness Kramer to act.
Campaigns Manager James White said: "We don’t want Britain to fall behind the rest of Europe on this issue. People with disabilities rely heavily on public transport and driver training is key to ensuring bus travel is accessible to all passengers. The sector has had a year to show they will improve driver disability awareness and while some bus companies provide training for their drivers, it is clear that many drivers are still not sufficiently trained."
Guide dog owner Bernie Fitchett from Gillingham said: "Training for bus drivers is essential and makes it so much easier for someone with a disability to use a bus confidently. Sometimes even small things make all the difference. I was at a bus stop recently and the bus driver was great and told me the number of the bus, so I went to step on, but what he didn’t tell me was that there were about five people stepping off at the same time! Bumping into them was a bit embarrassing so I think the more awareness drivers have the better."
The ComRes survey for Guide Dogs showed overwhelming public support for a number of measures to improve bus journeys for disabled passengers. Significantly, 87% of people backed Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign, agreeing that audio announcements on buses would have a positive impact on the experience of disabled bus passengers.
Other measures supported include the return of on-board conductors (81%), more buses in rural areas (85%) and stricter enforcement of anti-social behaviour rules (85%).
An overwhelming majority of people with sight loss say bus drivers lack the basic training to help them use services confidently.
In a survey by the charity Guide Dogs, 82% of people with sight loss said their experience with bus drivers has not improved or has got worse over the last year, and just 13% said that drivers always responded appropriately to their needs.
The survey of 1,300 people showed that only a quarter of blind and partially sighted passengers felt drivers had received the right training to help them use the bus.
John Whitfield from Angus said: “I am often met by ignorance, despite the fact I carry a red and white cane and when I present my concession pass, they expect me to know where to place it on the scanner which I can’t always locate. When the ticket comes out, often I don't where it will be coming out and by the time I collect it, the driver will set off long before I can find a seat to sit down. I have fallen because of this. The whole attitudinal experience of drivers needs to be addressed and I thoroughly recommend that all bus staff, from front line ticket collectors, conductors and drivers undertake training.”
Guide Dogs is calling on the Government to ensure that all bus drivers receive disability awareness training. This would bring the UK in line with the rest of the EU where it is compulsory.
Campaigns Manager James White said: “It’s clear that bus companies are not moving fast enough on this issue and more must be done to help people with sight loss, for whom buses are a lifeline. We urge the Government to adopt the driver training regulations now for the benefit of all disabled bus passengers.”
A recent survey by ComRes showed that more than 80% of the public back the introduction of compulsory disability awareness training for bus drivers.
Pelican crossings will no longer be installed by local councils due to safety concerns highlighted by a coalition of organisations, including Guide Dogs.
Guide Dogs recently responded to a Government consultation on the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2015, calling for the removal of pelican crossings from the TSRGD in favour of safer crossings. The TSRGD sets out the design and conditions of use of official traffic signs in England, Scotland and Wales and, as a member of the Give Us Time to Cross campaign, Guide Dogs supported the removal of pelican crossings in favour of more crossings with detectors (puffin and pedex crossings). Crossings with detectors have a clear advantage in that they allow pedestrians extra time to cross if required.
Guide Dogs Senior Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Keen said: "Blind and partially sighted people may, in some circumstances, need extra time to cross the road, making it particularly important that pedestrian crossings are able to take account of walking speed. We're delighted that the Government have taken note of our call to remove pelican crossings from the TSRGD in favour of safer crossings."
This will not mean the removal of current pelican crossings, but they will no longer be available as an option for new pedestrian crossings.
In July we delivered a petition signed by 5,287 people asking the Prime Minister to undertake a blindfold walk. This would be so he can learn about the everyday obstacles people with sight loss face when walking down our cluttered streets.
David Cameron has responded, expressing his appreciation for the campaign and acknowledging the problems that street clutter and poor street design cause to all pedestrians.
James White, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs said: "Thank you to the thousands of people who signed our petition. This strength of feeling helped us to ensure the Prime Minister, in his words, 'fully understands' our concerns. We will continue with our campaign to ensure the UK's streets are accessible for all blind and partially sighted people.”
The letter from the Prime Minister also highlighted what action the Government has taken, by reminding local authorities of the need to get rid of unnecessary street furniture and other hazards. The Prime Minister informed us that Baroness Kramer, Minister for Transport, has written to local authorities to remind them of their powers to tackle pavement parking.
Guide Dogs is calling again on the Government to stop problem pavement parking, following nearly a year of inaction.
The charity has launched a new petition urging the Government to make pavement parking illegal, except in certain areas allowed by local councils.
Cars parked on pavements pose a serious danger to people with sight loss and many other pedestrians, including wheelchair users, older people and parents with pushchairs, by forcing them out on to the road.
In December 2015 MPs debated a proposal to make it an offence to park on pavements except where the local authority has created a special exemption. At the time, Transport Minister Andrew Jones promised the Government would look seriously at the issue, including conducting new research. But almost a year later, no real action has been taken.
Senior campaigns manager at Guide Dogs, James White said: “The Government committed to taking action to end this blight, but little has been done. It’s time for a new nationwide law to end inconsiderate and unnecessary pavement parking. The worry of not knowing if you will need to step into the road due to a blocked pavement is an added stress people with sight loss shouldn’t have to contend with.”
Guide dog owner Nathan Foy, from Cardiff said: “Having to walk in the road because of cars parked on pavements is terrifying, no matter how busy the street. I also have to think about the danger it poses to my guide dog, let alone when I am out with my two-year-old daughter. I’m sure if drivers could experience what it’s like to step out into such a dangerous situation when you can’t see, they’d park elsewhere.”
A survey by Guide Dogs showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a car parked on a pavement. Guide Dogs campaign for a ban on pavement parking is supported by more than 30 other charities and organisations who want to see a new nationwide law in place.
From 23-26 February the Pavement Parking petition will also feature as Mumsnet’s Guest Campaign of the moment.
Sign our petition and find out what you can do to help.
On Friday 4 December, pavement parking was debated in the House of Commons for the first time in years, as MPs from both sides of the House stood up to speak in support of a law to tackle the problem. It’s an issue which places blind and visually impaired people at risk on a daily basis, as well as those with physical disabilities and parents with pushchairs, obstructing the pavement and forcing them to step into the road. For people with sight loss, who may not know if a vehicle is approaching, this can be a frightening experience which can even lead them to avoid leaving their homes.
We have been campaigning to combat the blight of pavement parking since 2013, and this was the latest development, the second reading of the Pavement Parking (Protection of Vulnerable Pedestrians) Bill. A private member's bill presented by Simon Hoare MP, the Bill aims to manage the problem by replicating the law which has been in place in London since 1974. It has gained wide-ranging support, from across the political spectrum, from the Local Government Association (LGA) and 37 other groups including the British Parking Association, motorists' groups, disability charities, civic groups, professional organisations and older people's groups. Local councils support the measure too, with 78% of councillors in favour of a pavement parking law.
Private members’ bills have caught the public attention more than usual this year, with a number of bills prevented from progress by MPs who choose to 'talk out' the bills, giving lengthy speeches until the allotted time is up. It was this method which saw the demise of proposals for free hospital parking for carers, while the Off-Patent Drugs Bill did not even reach the point of debate after particularly expansive discussions of the bill beforehand were orchestrated to fill the parliamentary schedule. This has meant that to support a private member's bill can often be a frustrating process.
Campaigning for the Pavement Parking Bill, however, has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and we’ve had a huge amount of success in raising awareness. Since the start of October, over 2,500 people have written to their MPs about the Bill and in November, we delivered over 1,200 pavement-parking-themed birthday cards to Transport Minister Andrew Jones to show him the strength of feeling on the issue. As a result of this, and of Simon Hoare's tireless work, the Bill avoided the fate of so many other private members’ bills and Friday’s debate saw the Government announce that it will be conducting a policy review into the problem, considering how a law could be put into practice. Guide Dogs will be part of shaping that research, along with other stakeholders. The Bill may have been withdrawn but the path to a law on pavement parking has never looked clearer.
- Guide Dogs reveals league table of Britain’s worst cities for pavement parking
- Guide Dogs call for a change to the law to prevent danger to pedestrians
- 76% of city residents who took part in a YouGov poll support change to the law
New research released today by the charity Guide Dogs identifies Manchester as the worst city in Britain for pavement parking. The charity is calling for dangerous pavement parking to be outlawed and the research is released ahead of a key debate on the Pavement Parking Bill on Friday 4 December.
Badly parked cars are creating no-go zones for people living with sight loss, as they are often forced to step out into the road without being able to see oncoming traffic. Guide Dogs is calling on MPs to do the right thing and support the campaign to make our streets safer for all pedestrians. The charity has been campaigning for dangerous pavement parking to be outlawed since 2013 and the Bill has won support from MPs across all parties.
61% of Manchester residents who took part in the poll said that they come across parked cars on the pavement often or always on the street where they live, and 39% say they experience the problem often or always in the city centre.
Southampton came bottom of the league table with the clearest pavements of the cities polled. However, there is still much room for improvement, with 37% of people who took part in the poll indicating that they often or always find cars parked on the pavement of their street, and 27% indicating that they come across the problem often or always in the city centre.
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs said: “Today, there are almost two million people in the UK living with sight loss and we want our streets to be safe for everyone. Badly parked cars are forcing people living with sight loss to step out into the road and putting them in danger just because people park on pavements. We want to see an end to problem pavement parking, reclaiming the streets for pedestrians.”
Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who has tabled the Bill said: "This new research shows just how widespread the problem of pavement parking is across the UK. No one should be forced to step out into the road by an inconsiderately parked vehicle, but it's a particular issue for pedestrians such as people living with sight loss, parents with children in buggies and older people. It's time to change drivers' attitudes towards pavement parking."
Pavement Parking League Table
The poll asked residents in ten cities how frequently they come across cars parked on pavements. Guide Dogs then used the results to create the following league table:
Pavement parking league table
Public support for new regulations
The poll demonstrates that there is wide-spread support for a new law that would prevent dangerous pavement parking in areas where it had been identified as a problem, with 76% of respondents across the 10 cities polled saying they would support such as law.
Drivers are unlikely to consider pedestrians when parking
The poll also showed that when considering where to park, drivers admit that the pedestrian safety can be a low priority compared to other considerations such as legality or convenience. Two thirds of all adults surveyed in the ten cities (66%) considered legality to be very important when deciding where to park, but four out of ten people polled (44%) considering the ability of pedestrians to pass their vehicle to be very important.
Pavement Parking already regulated in London
Pavement parking has not been allowed in London for over 40 years, although the regulations include exemptions for businesses loading goods and specific exemptions granted by individual councils. Guide Dogs believes this approach works well and is leading calls for a new law that would implement a London-style system across England and Wales. To date, 37 other organisations have signed up to support the campaign.
With just one month to go until the second reading of the Pavement Parking Bill, councillors across England and Wales have expressed their support which is great news for the Guide Dogs campaign.
Pavement parking is the most common street obstruction that blind and partially sighted people encounter, with nine out of 10 people with sight loss regularly experiencing difficulties with pavement parking. It’s an issue that also affects parents with young children, older people and other disabled people. Problem pavement parking dangerously forces many people out into the road into the path of oncoming traffic to get around.
Guide Dogs and campaigners have been contacting councils to find out if they support the Bill’s proposals which would alter the powers that councils have at the moment. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from across the political spectrum. Some of the comments received include:
"I would wholeheartedly support the introduction of an up-to-date legislation to combat pavement parking." Leader of Council, Conservative.
"Parking on the pavement is not something that is currently enforceable under the auspices of the Civil Parking Enforcement Policy in Wales" Leader of Council, Plaid Cymru.
“The law at the present time is an absolute nonsense and a very sad joke when it comes to enforcement. As you have stated it should be quite clear that parking on the pavement is not acceptable unless specified in a local traffic order.” Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Labour.
Guide Dogs and the 30 other organisations supporting this change in law, including the Local Government Association and National Association of Local Councils, will be continuing to campaign for this change in law ahead of its second reading on 4th December.
The Bill would replicate the Greater London parking laws, across the rest of England and Wales. This would introduce a presumption that cars cannot park on pavements unless specifically allowed.
- Charity Guide Dogs receives surge of support to outlaw irresponsible pavement parking
- New online map lets pedestrians share pictures of cars dangerously blocking their way throughout the UK
Charity Guide Dogs is calling on MPs and the public to back a new Bill to outlaw irresponsible parking, as its campaign ramps up this week. According to the charity, badly parked cars, vans and other vehicles are putting the lives of pedestrians up and down the country at risk every day.
YouGov research1 conducted on behalf of Guide Dogs found that the problem of vehicles parked on pavements is rife - a huge 80% of people see vehicles parked on pavements at least once a week. Parking on pavements can block the footway, forcing pedestrians into busy roads. Guide Dogs is concerned that this is making some cities and town centres into no-go zones for people who are blind or partially sighted - many of whom can’t see when it’s safe to step into the road.
Now members of the public are rallying behind the campaign and, since April, have sent the charity more than 1,000 pictures of vehicles parked on pavements. The images have been used to create a map link which shows that badly parked cars and vans are blocking the way for pedestrians across the country.
A Private Member's Bill calling to end irresponsible pavement parking will be given its first reading today, Wednesday 24 June. Guide Dogs wants politicians to back the change in the law and help the almost two million people who are living with sight loss today live life the way they choose.
The Bill has been put forward by Simon Hoare, Conservative MP for North Dorset, and comes after 184 MPs attended a parliamentary event held by Guide Dogs earlier this month to draw attention to the matter.
Amongst those attending were senior Westminster politicians from across all of the major political parties. The event was hosted by Lord Holmes of Richmond - who is himself a guide dog owner.
Simon Hoare MP said it's important we act to address the issue: "I'm passionate about pedestrian safety and it's undeniable that vehicles parked on pavements can lead to unnecessarily dangerous situations. This new law would help not only those people living with sight loss but also parents with buggies and people living with a disability. I hope that my fellow MPs will also see the sense in this argument and vote to outlaw such irresponsible parking."
Lord Holmes said: “Pavement parking makes everyone’s life a misery. Why would you want a situation where guide dog owners, young families and people with push chairs have to step into oncoming traffic because there are cars blocking the pavement? We have a crazy situation in this country where we have the cars on the pavement and the pedestrians in the roadway. I hope Parliament will support this new law to make pavements safe for pedestrians"
Pavement parking has not been allowed in London for over 40 years, which includes exemptions for businesses loading goods and specific exemptions granted by individual councils. Guide Dogs believes this approach works well and is leading calls for a new law that would implement a London-style system across England and Wales. To date, 21 other organisations have signed up to support the campaign.
James White, Campaigns Manager for Guide Dogs, said: “Parking on pavements is blighting Britain's streets. It puts all pedestrians in danger, but particularly those living with sight loss. It is terrifying for someone who cannot see oncoming traffic to have to take the risk of stepping out into a road just because someone has decided to park on the footway. We hope this year will see this dangerous exercise outlawed once and for all, and call on all MPs to back a change in the law."
1 YouGov research commissioned by Guide Dogs, December 2014 – sample size 2,068 UK adults, undertaken online between 9th and 10th December 2014. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (18+).
Blaydon MP Liz Twist took part in a blindfold walk in order to understand the daily challenges blind and partially sighted people face.
The challenge took place in a busy residential area of Dunston on Friday 18 May 2018. Liz experienced the difficulties faced by people who are blind or partially sighted, including local guide dog owners Margaret Ambrasas and Laurel Holleran, when making what should be simple everyday journeys along the road in their local area.
Supported by mobility instructor, David Waterfall-Brown, the MP for Blaydon, found she was forced out on to busy roads by vehicles parked on the pavement. This obstructive parking very often coupled with overhanging hedges and wheelie bins, make it impossible to keep to the pavement. Leaving the safety of the pavement, very often onto busy roads with noisy fast traffic creates a danger in itself, especially for those with sight loss, parents with prams, wheelchair users and many others.
63% of drivers in the North East admit they park on the pavement, but many of them don't think about the danger they pose to people with sight loss, according to a survey.
Cars parked on pavements are an everyday nightmare for blind and partially sighted people, as well as other vulnerable pedestrians. Too often people with sight loss are forced out into busy roads because an inconsiderate motorist has blocked the pavement. It's an unwanted barrier to the freedom and independence a guide dog brings.
The YouGov poll commissioned by Guide Dogs shows that across the UK, most drivers (54%) admit they park on the pavement. However, nearly five out of 10 drivers (48%) who said they park on a pavement haven't thought about the possible problems it causes to blind or partially sighted people.
Liz said, “I found the whole experience daunting and it has demonstrated so well the daily experiences of members of our community who are vision impaired. Cars parked on pavements provide dangerous obstructions, forcing blind and partially sighted people to step into traffic in order to travel around. I will be calling on the Government to give Councils more powers to tackle problem parking, particularly on our narrow streets which were not designed for the amount of cars today.”
Guide Dogs believes this thoughtless behaviour is making some of our town and city centres and suburbs in the North East no go areas for people who are blind or partially sighted and can undermine the life-changing freedom offered by a guide dog partnership.
The charity is campaigning for a change in the law. We want a standardised law across the country making it clear that pavement parking should be the exception, not the norm for motorists, and give Local Authorities real power to properly tackle this problem. We want a clear law where drivers cannot park on the pavement unless in a specifically designated area, in line with Greater London.
Safe and Sound
Guide Dogs is celebrating a milestone in the Safe and Sound campaign, following a landmark European vote yesterday, but says more must be done to make quiet vehicles safe for people with sight loss and other road users.
Yesterday the European Parliament passed a regulation requiring car manufacturers to fit artificial sound generators to quiet hybrid and electric vehicles, making them safer.
This has come about as the result of a two year lobbying campaign by Guide Dogs and our campaigners, which has been supported by 21 other organisations representing road users and disabled people.
Guide Dogs' Senior Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Keen said: "We’re delighted that the European Union has recognised the problems quiet vehicles cause for pedestrians who can't hear them coming, but the regulation does not go nearly far enough. New quiet vehicles will not have to be fitted with an artificial sound generator until 2021. This is too late to protect blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
"The other major problem with the regulation is that the artificial sound generator will be fitted with a pause switch, allowing the driver to turn it off as they choose. This will make it void as a safety feature."
Guide Dogs will continue to campaign to make the pause switch illegal on UK roads and for the Government to make the installation of artificial sound generators a precondition of its subsidy to the electric and hybrid vehicle market.
Miss Keen said: "The numbers of quiet cars on our roads will increase year on year and the Government has already committed £500 million between 2015 and 2020 to support the market and increase uptake. We will continue campaigning to make sure these vehicles can be heard."
Leading charity Guide Dogs has teamed up with Paralympian Libby Clegg to call on the public to back a petition, to protect pedestrians from the dangers posed by quiet cars.
Quiet hybrid and electric vehicles are 40% more likely to collide with pedestrians than cars with a regular combustion engine. Guide Dogs wants the government to make it compulsory for all quiet vehicles to have sound generating systems built-in and turned on, to limit the risk for pedestrians.
As the numbers of quiet electric and hybrid vehicles on our roads continues to increase Guide Dogs believes that the risk to pedestrians living with sight loss is growing significantly, as many rely on being able to hear a car to cross the road safely.
A study commissioned by Guide Dogs and conducted by the TAS Partnership Ltd shows that quiet vehicles are a growing danger. The study found a 54% increase in accidents where pedestrians were injured by quiet vehicles from 2012 to 2013.
An online YouGov survey commissioned by Guide Dogs found that the general public share the charity’s worry that quiet vehicles are a safety hazard for pedestrians. In the poll of 2,000 adults, over three quarters (76%) agreed that quiet vehicles make the roads less safe for pedestrians with visual impairments.
The findings also showed that the problem goes much wider – 78% say quiet cars make roads less safe for older people and three quarters say the same for children.
James White, Campaigns Manager for Guide Dogs, said: "Quiet vehicles put pedestrians at risk outside schools, in residential areas and in our towns and cities. The Government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds to increase the numbers of quiet cars on the roads, and while we support the development of environmentally friendly vehicles, more needs to be done to protect pedestrian safety.”
Paralympic sprinter and guide dog owner Libby Clegg has experienced near collisions with quiet cars. She says: "As a guide dog owner I rely on being able to hear cars to judge when it’s safe to cross the road. It’s terrifying to cross when you’re unable to hear quiet hybrid and electric vehicles. Ensuring all quiet vehicles have sound generating systems installed and switched on would ensure that millions of people, like me, who are living with sight loss, would be protected from the growing safety hazard."
Guide dogs is campaigning for it to be compulsory for new quiet electric and hybrid vehicles to be audible though artificial sound generators. The charity is concerned that between now and 2021 – when EU rules will require all new quiet vehicles to have artificial sound generators – thousands more quiet cars will be on our roads putting pedestrians in danger. The charity is urging car manufacturers to do the right thing and fit sound generating systems to quiet vehicles before it becomes compulsory.
Guide Dogs and a number of other concerned organisations have called on the Government to make low emission ‘quiet’ vehicles safe to all pedestrians by ensuring they are fitted with technology to make them audibly detectible. ‘Quiet’ vehicles pose a serious threat to blind and partially sighted pedestrians who rely on sound to safely cross the road. As the number of low emission cars increases Guide Dogs is working to ensure that these cars can be heard by all.
The Government is looking to expand the number of low emission cars on our road, and is making significant amounts of funding available to support this. In a response to a Government consultation on the expansion of low emission vehicles, Guide Dogs in partnership with Brake, the British Horse Society, ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and a number of other concerned organisations called for:
- All low emission cars to be fitted with Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) to ensure that pedestrians can navigate the streets safely and confidently as is currently planned under the European regulation on the Sound Level of Motor Vehicles.
- The fitting of AVAS should be a requirement for all electric vehicles procured for public sector use.
- The Government to make the installation of AVAS on low emission vehicles a pre-condition to the £500 million of Government funding being made available for low emission vehicles.
Research shows that low emission ‘quiet’ vehicles travelling at low speeds cannot be heard until they are just one second away from impact with a pedestrian. They pose a risk to a wide range of road users. Widespread concern over this issue has led to approximately 22,500 emails being sent to politicians over the past 12 months about this issue.
Guide Dogs has revealed startling figures which show that as numbers of quiet electric and hybrid vehicles increase, pedestrian safety is at risk.
A study into the safety of quiet hybrid and electric vehicles by passenger transport specialists, the TAS Partnership, has shown that these vehicles are more likely to be involved in a collision resulting in injury to a pedestrian than conventional vehicles.
The findings, of serious concern for blind and partially sighted people, show quiet vehicles were involved in 25% more collisions between 2010 and 2012 compared to the vehicle population as a whole.
Only last week, the UK Government committed to promoting the ultra-low-emission vehicle industry through subsidies. However, the Government has given no indication as to how it intends to make these vehicles safe for road users. Guide Dogs' Safe and Sound campaign calls for these vehicles to be made audible through the installation of artificial engine sound generators.
Guide dog owner, Katherine Haslam explains the importance of sound: "I rely on my hearing every day when I go out onto the street, the sounds are there as warnings to me to be careful.
"I’ve had several near misses in the past with quiet cars. I had asked my guide dog to move forward as I’d heard no traffic coming and she then basically stopped. Thankfully, she had actually seen the car coming but I just felt the woosh of an electric car push past us. We were very close to being seriously injured or worse.
"Crossing the road for me at any time is difficult. But if there are more electric and hybrid cars on the road, for me going out would become a nightmare."
The Quiet Vehicles report, concludes "pedestrians and other road users have always relied on vehicle noise to gauge proximity and speed of nearby traffic. If vehicle noise is reduced, this puts blind and partially sighted road users especially at a disadvantage."
James White, Guide Dogs' Campaigns Manager, said: "We strive to give people who are blind and partially sighted the confidence to get out and about alone and the research findings clearly inhibit this effort. This isn't just about physical injury, a near miss with a quiet vehicle can be enough to severely hamper a blind or partially sighted person’s confidence.
"As the numbers of these vehicles on our roads increase, this report shows the need for urgent action to be taken to consider their safety implications."
There is currently scope to make the fitting of artificial engine noise on quiet vehicles mandatory in a regulation being considered in Europe. Next week, there is a crucial vote which could determine how soon this safety feature would have to be installed in all new quiet vehicles across Europe. Guide Dogs requests that this regulation is implemented as soon as possible.
Over 100 Members of Parliament supported Guide Dogs’ call for the installation of a vital safety feature on quiet hybrid and electric vehicles to keep pedestrians safe, by attending a reception at the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 26 June. MPs from many different political parties backed the charity's call to install artificial noise generators on quiet vehicles.
Research shows that some quiet vehicles cannot be heard until one second before impact and, in certain conditions, are more likely to be involved in a collision with a pedestrian than conventional vehicles. Guide Dogs held the reception, where Transport Minister Norman Baker spoke, to highlight the charity’s concerns about the safety implications of vehicles that cannot be heard.
James White, Guide Dogs' Campaigns Manager, said: "As the number of quiet vehicles increases on our roads, we need to ensure they are safe. Blind and partially sighted people rely on the sound of an engine to cross a road safely. If you can’t see or hear a car, then how do you know it is there? We welcome the large numbers of MPs supporting our campaign. Quiet vehicles must be safe for all pedestrians and we urge the Department for Transport to take steps to ensure this happens."
Guide dog owners whose dogs have been attacked will get support that is tailored to their needs thanks to new guidelines agreed between Guide Dogs and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) recognises the devastating impact that an attack on an assistance dog has on their owner’s life and will ensure that incidents are treated much more seriously than a dog-on-dog attack.
From today, when a guide dog owner reports an attack, police forces in England and Wales have committed to taking steps such as assigning a named officer to their case and recording the victim as vulnerable, so investigations are tailored around their needs. The full impact of the attack on their guide dog will also be taken into account.
Guide dog owner Jemma Brown, whose dog Gus was attacked so many times he had to be retired, has welcomed the Service Level Agreement. Jemma, from Southampton, said: “The attacks on Gus were horrible for both of us, but I count myself as relatively lucky as my local police force have been pretty good at helping me.
“It’s nice to know that guide dog owners everywhere will get the same level of attention and support from their local police force at what can be a traumatic time.”
On average, 10 guide dogs are attacked by other dogs every month in the UK, often with devastating consequences for the animal and its owner. If their guide dog cannot work, the owner is left unable to get around on their own, robbing them of their independence. In several cases guide dogs have had to be retired early, which is extremely distressing for both dog and owner and wastes Guide Dogs donors’ money.
Chief executive of Guide Dogs, Richard Leaman, said: “We’re grateful to North Wales and Northamptonshire police forces for listening to us and working with us to put this Service Level Agreement in place, and we’re delighted that every force in England and Wales are keen to adopt it.
“When a guide or assistance dog is attacked, the consequences for its owner are devastating. Our guide dog owners rely on their guide dogs to get around and if a dog can’t work, their owner can be left housebound. But once the physical wounds have healed, a dog attack can also have a dramatic effect on both a guide dog and its owner’s confidence.”
The SLA follows the creation in May of a new offence, under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, of allowing a dog to attack an assistance dog. This offence attracts a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison. During the consultation period before the Act was passed, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard of North Wales Police and National Policing Lead for Dangerous Dogs, together with Mr Leaman, gave evidence at the House of Commons.
DCC Pritchard said: “We recognise the devastating effect of attacks on guide dogs. This new offence gives police forces a great opportunity to strengthen how we support victims and improve how we deal with such traumatic incidents.”
Guide Dogs Scotland welcomes the move by the Scottish Parliament to extend changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act into Scotland.
Under the changes, if a dangerously out of control dog injures an assistance dog, the offence is considered to be ‘aggravated’ and will carry a higher minimum sentence.
Guide Dogs Scotland provided evidence to the Parliament during their decision making process, and Wendy Rankin, Guide Dogs Scotland Regional Director, said the changes are a welcome addition to Scottish Government measures encouraging responsible dog ownership.
"Guide Dogs Scotland invests time and effort in understanding the potential factors behind dangerous dog incidents. As a charity, we can only do so much and so we look towards politicians, police, and the judiciary to help us guard the safety, health, well-being and independence of guide dog owners and their dogs."
From 2011 to 2013, there were 27 attacks on guide dogs in Scotland, which was an all-time high. Just under half of these attacks involved an injury to the dog, but the psychological damage incurred as a result of an attack can be as debilitating as a physical injury. Some of these injuries incurred vet bills, which were paid for by Guide Dogs Scotland. Following an attack and injury some guide dogs were unable to work for their owner for a period of time, resulting in that owner being deprived of their independent mobility.
There have been instances of guide dogs being prematurely retired as a result of dog attacks. In one particular case, the dog had been working for less than a year with the owner.
Wendy Rankin continued: "The effect of aggressive dogs on a guide dog and its owner can be devastating.
"It is really difficult for guide dog owners to report dog attacks. Since they have very limited, or no, vision, they are unable to give a description of the dog or its owner. Scotland has the best dog control laws in the UK. We now need support from the public to help us by reporting attacks, or dogs not being controlled well, and coming forward as witnesses."
Guide dog owner Elaine MacKenzie, whose guide dog Una was attacked by an out of control dog in an Edinburgh supermarket in 2011, welcomed developments in the Scottish Parliament.
“Una was viciously attacked. I can only liken the noise she made to that of a screaming child, she was in so much distress. Staff in the shop tried to pull the attacking dog away but it was relentless. Una bled a lot and had several puncture wounds. She recovered, but it took quite a long time for us both to get enough confidence to get out and about like usual.”
No prosecution arose from the attack, and Elaine said she hoped guide dogs and other assistance dogs, and their owners, would be safer as a result of the changes.
Guide Dogs Cymru is delighted that the Welsh Government has published plans to start tackling the issue of irresponsible dog owners.
Compulsory microchipping of all dogs in Wales will come into force from March 2015. Guide Dogs has been campaigning on this issue since 2010.
Making the announcement, Alun Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, said the majority of people who took part in a consultation last year were clear that compulsory microchipping of dogs should be introduced in Wales.
He added that regulations on licensed dog breeding would follow later this year in a bid to tackle irresponsible ownership.
Guide Dogs Cymru's engagement manager, Andrea Gordon, said: "We are delighted that the Welsh Government has listened to Guide Dogs Cymru's call for compulsory microchipping. This is a vital first step to protecting guide dog owners' freedom."
On average, eight guide dogs are attacked by other dogs every month in the UK. These attacks are devastating for the dog and the owner, and can rob someone with sight loss of their means of getting out and about on their own, leaving them living in isolation.
Irresponsible dog owners whose dogs attack guide dogs could face up to three years in prison under plans announced today.
The government is proposing to increase the maximum penalties for owners whose dogs attack assistance dogs following a consultation this summer.
Guide Dogs Chief Executive Richard Leaman said: "Guide Dogs has long campaigned for tougher sanctions against irresponsible dog owners whose dogs attack guide dogs. It's clear that the vast majority of respondents to this survey agree and we are pleased the Government is listening - though we would have liked to see a longer maximum sentence for a crime of this brutality.
“An attack on a guide dog is devastating and can rob someone who is blind or partially sighted of their means of getting out and about independently and with confidence. In some cases, a guide dog has to be permanently withdrawn from service after an attack, leaving the owner bereft and often traumatized. This is also costly for us as a charity. Each guide dog costs £50,000 to breed, train and support during its working life and we receive no government funding to provide this life-changing service."
Ten guide dogs are being attacked by out of control dogs every month, according to a report published today.
The all-time high figure comes on the day MPs debate dog control in Parliament. The report by the charity Guide Dogs shows the trauma these attacks cause guide dog owners and urges the Government to act now to protect the freedom of people who are blind or partially sighted.
A total of 240 dog attacks on guide dogs were reported between March 2011 and February 2013. Five guide dogs had to be withdrawn from service in that period, which has cost the charity more than £170,000. The number of reported attacks has risen since Guide Dogs’ last report in 2012, which showed an average of eight attacks a month.
Beth Dawes’ guide dog Anne was attacked in Newcastle City Centre. She said:
"I heard a dog running towards us growling and I felt Anne being pinned to the floor. I just felt totally helpless. I didn’t know what was happening and it was really frightening. Anne’s wary now if she comes across a dog she doesn’t know, and if I hear a dog growling it brings all those anxieties back."
Guide Dogs’ Chief Executive Richard Leaman said: “A change in the law can’t come quickly enough for our guide dog owners, who too often have to bear the devastating consequences of these attacks. When a guide dog is attacked, someone with sight loss their life is huge and we are calling on the Government to do everything in its power to promote responsible dog ownership, deter these attacks, and ensure this deeply worrying trend does not continue.”
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill would make an attack on an assistance dog an aggravated offence, and will also make it an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control when there is ‘reasonable concern’ that it will injure an assistance dog such as a guide dog.
Guide Dogs’ researchers also found evidence that the bond between a person with sight loss and a guide dog is even stronger than an owner and a pet dog, so an attack can be even more detrimental than on a pet dog, and they can both lose vital confidence and trust - in some cases, never wanting to go out again.
Mr Leaman said: “We have fought long and hard on this issue and while we are delighted these measures are being proposed, there is no time to lose. Only when irresponsible owners are held accountable for their dogs, and heavily punished for their aggression, do we believe the number of attacks on guide dogs will come down.”