'This has made me incredibly aware': Mayor blindfolded for important awareness event
PUBLISHED: 13:23 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:23 16 October 2019
An event to raise awareness of the challenges that visually impaired and blind people face and overcome every day has been hailed a success.
A blindfolded walk took place through Beccles town centre last week as part of an event to mark World Sight Day.
Organised by the Lions Club of Beccles and Observatory the Opticians, aong those taking part was Beccles mayor Andrea Downes.
She said: "This was an experience very few sighted people get - being walked around town holding on to the sturdy arm of Beccles and District Lions President, Chris Eglington, while blindfolded.
"I had heard how senses are heightened when you lose one of them, but I was surprised at just how heightened they would be!
"The wind on my face felt very different and I could hear so many different conversations taking place around me.
"It felt unnerving hearing people say 'Oh look it's Andrea' or when people called over to me!
"It was absolutely exhausting and we were only out for 20 minutes. One of the exhausting things was being aware that I could knock someone with the cane. "A stress we don't have to consider as sighted people.
"This has made me incredibly aware of the challenges visually impaired people meet in the town.
"I know the area extremely well and yet felt completely disorientated.
"The positioning of lampposts, parked cars and mobility scooters, A Boards, are real problems".
The walk started and finished outside the optician's practice in Exchange Square, travelling through the town centre before returning by the same route.
Jacqui Sayer, practice manager at Observatory the Opticians, said: "This event sounds like fun, but there is, of course, a very serious reason why we are doing this."
Observatory the Opticians employee Mornie Weakley, who also took part in the walk, said: "This was a very powerful and memorable experience, you feel incredibly vulnerable and disorientated without your sight walking through a busy town."
The walk was organised by the Beccles Lions club, part of an international charity which supports the local community as well as humanitarian causes across the world.
Lions President Chris Eglington said: "Issuing important health messages are a key part of the Lions eye health programme and working with such committed health care professionals such as those at Observatory the Opticians really boosts awareness within the town of Beccles."