Blind woman speaks out after repeated abuse in Stevenage

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

A blind woman says she has been repeatedly subjected to abuse since moving to the area.

Siobhan Meade, who is registered blind and uses a guide dog, told the Comet there has been a “huge difference” in how she has been treated since moving to Stevenage at the end of November from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

The 30-year-old, who works as a freelance journalist, says she has experienced abuse – including swearing and intimidation – every other week while out walking with her guide dog Mac, with the majority of incidents taking place in Stevenage town centre.

Miss Meade says she has been insulted and taunted, as well as attempts made to make her walk into lampposts.

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

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

“Where I lived in Gorleston [an area of Great Yarmouth] 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.

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“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.”

Miss Meade 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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