Blind Gorleston woman subjected to abuse in new home town

PUBLISHED: 10:32 07 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:32 07 February 2014

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac.

Picture: James Bass

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

A blind Gorleston woman says she has been repeatedly subjected to abuse since moving away from the coast.

Mercury columnist Siobhan Meade, who is registered blind and uses a guide dog, said there has been a “huge difference” in how she is treated since she moved to Stevenage in Hertfordshire two months ago.

The 30-year-old freelance journalist, who moved at the end of November, said she has experienced abuse – including swearing and intimidation – every other week while out walking with guide dog Mac, with the majority of incidents taking place in Stevenage town centre.

Siobhan said she had been insulted and taunted, as well as attempts made to make her walk into lampposts.

Last month a group of youths tried to obstruct her while recording video footage which they said would be uploaded onto video sharing website YouTube.

“I’ve noticed a huge difference since moving from Great Yarmouth,” said Siobhan, who was born partially sighted but lost her remaining vision at the age of 16.

“Where I lived in Gorleston was a very small community where the majority were really quite respectful and helpful. I never had a problem.

“Since coming to Stevenage there’s been so many occasions of abuse – verbally and through intimidation.

“I am quite a calm person at the best of times so I just ask them ‘why did you do that?’.

“It’s about educating people. I’m not easily intimidated but it could make partially sighted people or disabled people more generally too scared to leave their own home.

“The majority of people in Stevenage are hardworking and decent but there are a few that give it a bad name and help create a reputation it doesn’t deserve.”

Siobhan said in the majority of cases members of the public have not intervened, and although understanding why people “don’t want to be involved in confrontation”, she believes that, in order for such abuse to be stamped out, others must take a stand.

“If people see something they could provide important evidence to police which we can’t provide ourselves,” she added.

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