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Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Wootton Bassett's blindfold walk
By Kelly Stooke
BBC Wiltshire

Joy the guide dog
Joy the guide dog gave her owner his confidence back after he went blind

Sighted people in Wootton Bassett have been getting the chance to learn what it's like to rely on guide dogs.

A special guide dog awareness event was held at the Wiltshire Golf and Country Club on Tuesday 23 February.

At the event people were blindfolded and were then guided around the room by a dog and a trainer.

One message that was repeated was that people from Wiltshire suffering from mobility problems could be missing out on help from a guide dog.

Blindfold walk
Sighted people experienced a blindfold walk

The South West Information Officer at the The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, Barry Butt, said: "We believe that they're many people out there that could benefit from the aid of a guide dog that basically don't take advantage of that because a lot of people don't know exactly what we can offer.

"There are lots of myths around about having a guide dog.

"A lot of people believe that they have to be registered blind or partially sighted and that isn't actually the case anymore.

"Your mobility has to be affected by your vision."

Alan Fletcher, who is the chair of Swindon Guide Dogs, was also at the event and he talked about when he first went blind.

He said: "I was registered blind in 2005 and I got my guide dog Joy in the following May.

"But I was one of 180, 000 people in the UK that when they're visually impaired can't go out outside due to fear.

"I used to sit indoors and wait for my wife to come home and then when she came home from work I used to ask her to take me for a walk. It was the fear about what was outside.

"I wasn't trained with a white stick then so you think you know your own environment but I can assure you that when you lose your sight you don't at all really.

"I wondered if I would walk into a lamppost or fall off a pavement."

Dealing with going blind

Talking about how he then dealt with his situation, Alan said: "I always knew that I was going to be registered blind but when I actually was, I thought 'why me?' and 'what have I done to deserve this?'

"But then you get on with it and think you have to make the best of these things and do whatever you can.

The reason why I became the chair of Swindon Guide Dogs was just to try and put something back in, because my dog, Joy, made such a big difference to me
Alan Fletcher, chair of Swindon Guide Dogs

"That's the reason why I became the chair of Swindon Guide Dogs - just to try and put something back in to guide dogs, because she's made such a big difference to me.

"She's given me my confidence back as well as mobility, freedom and independence.

"She's also given my wife her independence back because she doesn't have to worry about me all the time now."

Fore more information, visit the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association website.





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