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Hayle police support sight-impaired

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: August 19, 2013

Three members of the Penwith Visually Impaired Group: from left, Joan Gilbertson and Sheila and Larry Shields.

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POLICE in Hayle have teamed up with a group for visually impaired people to raise awareness of the problems they face after some members were abused in the street.

Members of Penwith Visual Impairment Group in Hayle have blamed the incidents on ignorance of their condition, and are asking the public to show greater understanding.

The club is the only one of its kind in west Cornwall, and people come from all over Penwith to discuss their problems and gain mutual support. It meets twice a month and its two dozen members have varying levels of impairment.

Joan Gilbertson, 94, said it was hard for people to understand how frightening it could be even to venture out of the house for fear of falling or being pestered by passers-by.

"I'm a retired police officer. I don't go to town on my own now; I'm too afraid," she said.

"It's just a question of trying to make people more aware that not everyone's like them.

"We have little or no sight and we'd just like some consideration sometimes."

Similar concerns were raised by 72-year-old Edith Chitson, who suffers from degenerative myopia, which causes distant objects to be out of focus.

"I don't go out at night on my own because I can't see," she said. "I have to hail every bus that comes along until I get the right one."

She said the group was a source of reassurance: "Suddenly the world's normal for me here because I'm not expected to compete with the sighted world."

Police community support officer Jenny Hosking has attended several meetings to make sure the members know what support is available and discuss ways in which they can make the community more aware of their needs.

"A lot of them are unaware of the local police in their area; we're putting them in touch with Neighbourhood Watch," she said.

"We may go into schools and talk to young people to make them more aware."

PCSO Hosking called for the community to be more mindful about such things as extendable dog leads, cyclists and cars parked on the pavement which might not be considered a problem but could be hazardous in the world of a partially sighted person.

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