Officers and staff from North Wales Police have been given a taste of life without sight thanks to working in partnership with the charity Guide Dogs Cymru.
A special sensory tunnel is making a whistle stop tour of North Wales this week thanks to partnership work between the Force’s Diversity Unit and Guide Dogs Cymru to raise awareness of some of the issues faced by visually impaired people.
The tunnel allows individuals to experience the challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people by walking through a pitch black tunnel that has various traffic and countryside noises with different textures on the walls and under-foot.
It was the first time the tunnel has been used by a Welsh police force and on Tuesday, April 14, the tunnel came to Police Headquarters in Colwyn Bay.
Amongst the officers taking part in the exercise was Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, who was blindfolded and led inside the unit.
He said: “We are pleased to be working in conjunction with Guide Dogs Cymru and are very grateful to them for bringing the unit to North Wales.
“It has been a great opportunity for our staff to put themselves in the shoes of people with a visual impairment. Only when you do this can you start to fully appreciate the obstacles that people on a daily basis and how it may impact them as a victim or witness in an investigation.”
In May last year changes were made to legislation which meant that dog owners who allow their dogs to attack assistance dogs will face tougher prison sentences.
Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, ACPO lead on Dangerous Dogs said: “We recognise the devastating effect of attacks on guide dogs. The new offence that was introduced last year gives police forces a great opportunity to strengthen how we support victims and improve how we deal with such traumatic incidents.”
Andrea Gordon, Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “We brought the tunnel here so that police officers and staff could get a better understanding of the obstacles facing blind and partially sighted people on a daily basis, such as cars parked on pavements and street clutter. We are delighted with the level of interest and support. Guide dog owners can also feel confident that if their dog is attacked, North Wales Police will take appropriate action.”
Greg George, Diversity Manager for North Wales Police said: “Throughout the week police officers and staff are being invited to experience the challenges faces by blind and partially-sighted people by walking through the sensory unit. This opportunity will hopefully give a small glimpse of what daily struggles one might come across if visually-impaired.”
The Sensory Tunnel visited Caernarfon Police Station on Monday, Police HQ in Colwyn Bay on Tuesday, and will be at St Asaph Divisional HQ on Wednesday, Mold Police Station on Thursday before finishing at Wrexham Police Station on Friday morning.
Further information regarding the Guide Dogs charity is available via their website www.guidedogs.org.uk