Felixstowe: Blindfold gave mayor a new view of resort

Blindfolded mayor Jan Garfield of Felixstowe puts her trust into a guide dog, monitored by instructo

Blindfolded mayor Jan Garfield of Felixstowe puts her trust into a guide dog, monitored by instructor Pete Smith. - Credit: Archant

A mayor gained a completely new view of part of her town – by losing her sight.

Jan Garfield, mayor of Felixstowe, donned a blindfold and placed herself into the paws of a guide dog to experience what life is like for visually-impaired people.

Mrs Garfield, who has chosen the Guide Dogs charity as one of the good causes she is supporting during her year in office, said: “When I couldn’t see it was very different.

“It was like my sense of awareness and feeling was really heightened.

“For example, I have walked out of the doors of Great Eastern Square many times and never noticed there is a slope there.

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“It’s only a very slight one, but suddenly I could feel my feet moving downward, the surface had changed and it was very important that I knew it was there.

“The dog was leading me and I had to put my complete trust into her.

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“I would not have known the kerb was there or if someone was walking across my path.

“She was guiding me through the people.

“It gave me a completely new perspective on life.”

Guide dog mobility instructor Pete Smith brought two-year-old guide dog Jenny to Felixstowe for the event.

He said it cost about £50,000 to support a guide dog through its life – including breeding and its complete training.

“The key was to ensure the visually-impaired handler and the dog were well-matched and the handler was trained, too.

He said: “If we can build confidence in the handler, then the dog will respond to that, too, and grow in confidence.

“In the future confidence will be boosted even further by technology, such as GPS, which will enable a handler to know exactly where they are in a street.

“But nothing wil be able to take away the companionship of the dog, and the way it does the actual guiding and breaks down social barriers.”

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