The BBC Good Food Show and Gardner’s World was at Birmingham’s NEC this weekend and hosted guests such as celebrity chefs James Martin, Mary Berry and the Hairy Bikers. The event also had food tasting, afternoon tea, cooking lessons, gin making sessions as well as some remarkable interactive displays.
One of the most talked about interactive displays was by Guide Dogs UK. Guide Dogs UK is the country’s largest UK guide dog organisation. It helps thousands of people with visual impairments become more independent.
There interactive display is called ‘The Sensory Tunnel’, people walk through the tunnel with a blind fold on. Jackie Porter, Events Manager, (pictured below) explained how it works and why?
“The sensory tunnel is an inflatable tunnel that has different textures on the walls, different flooring and hidden speakers, which gives off the sounds of birds, traffic and trains jumping out at you. We put people in a blind fold as this gives the visitor the experience of what it is like to be totally blind. It really brings home to people, what it is like living with sight loss. We have lots of dogs here today to help raise awareness. It is important to get people to sponsor a puppy to become a guide dog as we get no funding from the government. We are very much a volunteer organisation and we could not survive without our volunteers. We have about 1000 staff and about 14,000 volunteers.”
The main aim of the organisation is to give people back their independence and enjoy the freedom of movement just the same as everyone else. The aim is to promote that being visually impaired does not stop a person from being a valuable member of society.
Valerie Rochelle, from Birmingham was one of the visitors to go through the tunnel, she said,
“The sensation was strange. I knew I was in a safe environment but if I was blind, I would have been nervous as you don’t know what’s next, whether there is a hole in the ground or anything. In the tunnel the side wall to guides you, but then it disappears, and you feel helpless. I can see why guide dogs are so important, they keep you safe and they give you confidence. I did notice my other sensors like hearing kicking in. You are very nervous”.
Mark Richards is a Guide Dogs UK trainer and explained what is involved in the process of training a dog to become a guide dog. “We breed all our own stock and we place our dogs in volunteer family homes, usually from about 10 weeks of age. They socialise and are exposed to all normal life situations. Then they come back into the training school at about 14 months and train for 26 weeks which entails lots of play training, lots of obedience training and teaching them responses on the street. We aim for the dog to guide you for up to an hour at a time”.
Guide Dogs UK will be returning with the sensory tunnel to the NEC at the end of November when the Good Food Show returns. Tickets are already on sale. For information on the BBC Good Food Show click here and for information on supporting Guide Dogs UK click here.