Pamela Young with her guide dog, Callie.

Ballina guide dog owner's appeal on World Sight Day

Thursday October 13th was World Sight Day and the Irish Guide Dogs charity used the event to appeal to people to become 'SmartStreet Heroes'.


Blind married mother of two Pamela Young is urging people in her local community to sign up to Irish Guide Dogs' SmartStreet Hero pledge to keep pedestrian pavements clear of parked cars, wheelie bins and over-hanging hedges. In doing so, community members will be safeguarding the independence and mobility of Pamela and other people with vision impairment in the community.


Having lost her sight at the age of 14 months due to a condition known as Retinal Blastoma, Pamela trained with her guide dog Callie. She no longer wished to rely on her parents or her husband to do the regular household chores such as the grocery shop.


Recently, Pamela could not leave the house for two days with her guide dog as a van was parked on the bend of a busy road on her route to town. Pamela had to contact the local gardaí to have the van removed.


Pamela said: “Callie gives me the freedom to go to the shops and around town. My independence with Callie has exceeded my own expectations. I never thought I could get further than the local shop. My children enjoy going out with us also.”


Pamela’s new-found independence is put on hold however when she frequently encounters cars parked on the pavement on her route to the local shop. She said: “I get ready to go out and do the daily grocery shop but if a car is parked on the pavement, I have to return home. The road is far too busy for me to risk trying to get Callie to guide me around the vehicle. I simply can’t get on with my daily activities when people park on the pavement.”


On World Sight Day, Irish Guide Dogs launched a campaign to 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 the charity's 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 your support for their campaign, go to their Facebook page, sign up for their SmartStreet Hero pledge and share with your friends. Signing the pledge means you will make every effort to keep our pavements free of obstacles so that blind and vision impaired persons have a clear, safe path to travel.


Speaking on her participation in the SmartStreet campaign, Pamela said: “Dealing with issues of poorly parked cars and ill placed bins is a daily challenge for myself and Callie. 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. For myself and Callie, that might mean walking out onto a busy or dangerous road. So I am asking people to get involved and to get informed and spread the SmartStreet message.”


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