In 2022, Mark shared his experience of getting around Swansea as a registered blind person in our Disabled Citizens' Inquiry. Here, he explains how Sustrans arranged for him to meet his local MP to further help change the places we live, work and enjoy ourselves for the better.
Mark met with his MP, Tonia Antoniazzi, in Gorseinon to explain what it's like to get around as a registered blind person. Credit: Dan Simpson
The Disabled Citizens' Inquiry
This research looks at how disabled people across the UK experience walking and wheeling in the UK.
Since the release of the report, we've been helping participants of the workshops to get in touch with their MPs to tell them first-hand what needs to change.Find out more.
I was registered blind in 1989. I’m completely blind on my right side, while the left side is like looking through a kaleidoscope.
I live in Swansea and work at Morriston Hospital. My guide dog Bobby gives me the confidence to go out.
In 2022, I joined a workshop for the Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry to share my experiences of getting around Swansea.
Then earlier this year, Sustrans organised for me to meet with my local MP and speak directly to her about the challenges people like me face.
Meeting my MP
Tonia Antoniazzi is Labour MP for the Gower.
Meeting her at her office in Gorseinon, I immediately felt like she wanted to hear what I had to say.
I told her about my background and losing my sight, and how much my life has improved since getting a guide dog and not needing to use a long cane.
But I also explained to her just how difficult it can be to get around Swansea with a sight impairment.
Pedestrian crossings can be a real pain. In some areas, the beepers which help tell me it’s okay to cross aren’t working anymore.
On top of that, I’ve found that some of the rotating cones below the button to cross are no longer working.
These things leave me absolutely stranded - what might have started as a day out to get things done or visit friends ends with me going home early.
The only thing I can hope for is for someone to also be at the crossing at the same time, who can tell me it’s okay to cross.
Other times, I’ve had to take a bus to another crossing to then catch the opposite bus back to the same point on the other side.
It’s frustrating, time-consuming, and at times makes me not want to go out.
Tonia wanted to hear more about where I was finding these issues, and said that she’d find out how often crossings were audited by the council.
Mark and his guide dog Bobby often experience difficulty on pavements obstructed by bins and other street clutter. Credit: Tom Hughes
Navigating our pavements as a registered blind person
Tonia also took an interest in what I had to say about navigating our pavements.
For me, the clutter on pavements like shop signs and recycling bins can make it really difficult to get around safely.
But it’s pavement parking which causes the most problems.
Sometimes, there isn’t enough room to squeeze alongside the car, particularly when people park all four wheels on the pavement.
My guide dog, Bobby, is trained to take me around cars when he spots them in the way, but sometimes this means me stepping into the road and walking into oncoming traffic.
I understand that some of our streets are just not wide enough to take cars parking along both kerbs, but for me, it can be dangerous.
Tonia seemed to get where I was coming from, and said that she would pick up the issue with Lee Waters, the Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change.
Read Mark's full story
Pavement parking is a real problem because I’ve got to go on the road. And my guide dog Bobby can’t tell me if there are any cars coming. On a 200-yard walk, this could happen maybe four or five times.
Low flower beds in Morriston are quite a trip hazard too. As are all the tables, chairs and advertising boards outside shops in Swansea city centre. I’d like to see these changed.
Listening to the experiences of disabled people
Overall, I was glad to have had the chance to meet my MP.
As a registered blind person, I felt that she was somebody you could approach.
I’m sure you can get some ministers who are there but not listening, but Tonia asked me lots of questions and seemed interested in what I had to say.
She was clued up and she wanted to know more about the problems I face in getting around.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to go to Westminster with Sustrans as part of the launch for the Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry.
It was a great event to be a part of.
I remember one thing mentioned was to create a panel of disabled people who are consulted on things like this.
I definitely think disabled people should be contacted more often to give their views, and I’d love to have a go and contribute.