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Street clutter is something that so many hardly notice until it is pointed out. But for some it can have a huge impact on their daily lives.

Guide dog owner Penny Hefferan shares her experiences.

Public spaces are becoming more difficult to navigate with the increase of street clutter. Pavements and other pedestrian areas can be blocked by an array of obstacles such as A-boards, badly-placed signs and outside hospitality dining.

This street clutter not only clogs up the pavements but can cause falls and trips, making it harder for people with sight loss to get around.



Outside dining furniture can be difficult for guide dogs to detect as tables and chairs aren’t solid objects, and even if there is a barrier around them, it can be hard for a dog to find its way through.

Quite often people at the tables won’t notice you or leave you enough space to get by, and if you get stuck it can be very frustrating and embarrassing, when all you want to do is get to your destination.

There have been times when I have been forced to walk in the road as the space on the pavement is too small.

Businesses often don’t leave enough space for me and my guide dog, but they usually aren’t the people who see how I am impacted, it’s their customers.

Some people are better than others at noticing and providing help, but some can be abrupt and don’t understand how the street clutter is a barrier to me.

Penny walking through a car park with her guide dog
cut the clutter graphic

Street clutter can be hard to avoid, sometimes you know where it is likely to be and other times it will be a new obstacle. It can be every few metres, making a short walk an obstacle race – what would normally be an enjoyable 20-minute walk can be twice as long given I am having to detect and avoid street clutter and provide support and encouragement to my guide dog.

The delay can make you late, or even rush the rest of your journey making you unsettled and less confident with each obstacle you face.


guide dogs logo

Thanks to our friends at Guide Dogs for putting us in touch with Penny. Join their campaign here.

All photos are courtesy of Guide Dogs.

About the author

Kate Joester

Partnerships and Impact Coordinator, Living Streets

[email protected]