Banners guide way to safer future

Winners of Express guide dog and road safety competition.'Max Thompson age 8 (on the left ) & Jem Hodgins age 10 (on the right)
Winners of Express guide dog and road safety competition.'Max Thompson age 8 (on the left ) & Jem Hodgins age 10 (on the right)

A banner designed by two school pupils to highlight the dangers of pavement clutter to blind and partially sighted people has been unveiled.

It features the drawings of eight-year-old Max Thompson and Jem Hodgins, 10, both of Outwood Primary Academy, who won an Express poster competition run in conjunction with the Guide Dogs Streets Ahead campaign.

Their entries were merged to create a final banner, which was unveiled at a presentation event at last Friday and will be distributed to schools across the area.

The school also had a visit from guide dogs.

Max said: “The competition was really interesting to do and I feel happy that my poster was used. Mrs Britton, who is my principal, is very proud of us both.”

Jem said: “I am really glad that the Guide Dogs came in - it was good to see how blind people manage on the paths and we got lots of information. I am proud that my poster design has been made into a banner too.”

The competition and Streets Ahead campaign has been backed by MP Ed Balls, and Wakefield Council leader, Peter Box, as well as entry judge and Police and Crime Comissioner, Marks Burns-Williamson. The trio have each individually completed a blindfolded walk to experience first-hand the hazards faced by blind and visually impaired users of the district’s footpaths.

Mr Burns Williamson said: “I was extremely impressed with the quality of the banners and choosing a winner was no easy task.

“It is a cause for concern that visually impaired people are being forced into the road because of motorists parking on pavements and this banner will go a long way to raising awareness of the issue.”

Officers from Wakefield Divisional Police Headquarters also experienced a similar blindfolded walk through the Guide Dogs Sensory Unit earlier this week.

Debbie Linford, community engagement officer for Guide Dogs, explained: “The sensory tunnel alters peoples’ perspectives and tests their senses.

“It allows them to experience what it is like to be blind or partially-sighted, and by doing so gives them a better understanding of the daily obstacles encountered by visually impaired people.”

It is hoped the national campaign will raise awareness of how blind and partially-sighted people’s lives could be made easier by simple things such as not parking on kerbs, putting bins away and not distracting guide dogs.