BOLTON’S Mayor and Mayoress have taken the “lead” in helping raise awareness of the obstacles blind and partially sighted face every day.

Cllr Guy Harkin and Colette Harkin negotiated a Walk My Way blindfold challenge, firstly with a guide dog and then using a long cane.

The Victoria Square event was held as part of the national Guide Dogs Week, which runs until October 14.

People got to meet about 20 dogs and take part in the challenge.

Volunteers also collected donations from shoppers.

It was organised by staff and volunteers from the Guide Dogs training school at Atherton.

Engagement officer Rachel O’Connor said: “At our school, we train about 120 guide dogs each year. The aim of the blindfold challenge is to highlight the obstacles blind and partially sighted people have to put up with, particularly street furniture. We felt it was important to bring that to the attention of the public.”

Cllr Harkin was led blindfold around a course, littered with signs, road cones and wheelie bins, by 20-month-old guide dog Otto and his handler, Emily Schofield.

Otto skilfully negotiated the course to ensure his VIP companion did not come into contact with any of the obstacles.

Afterwards, the mayor took part in another blindfold challenge, this time using a cane to walk around an obstacle-free course.

Cllr Harkin said: “I found walking with the guide dog was very unnerving. I think you would really need a lot of training for that. The dog was perfect and I trusted him implicitly. It was me who felt inadequate. I found it a lot easier to get around with the cane.”

Guide Dogs will be staging a similar event in Middlebrook on Saturday from 10am until 3pm when Bolton Wanderers captain Kevin Davies will be walking the obstacle course with a guide dog.

The charity is appealing for volunteers and puppy walkers to call 0845 371 7771 or you can visit

Cllr Harkin will be taking a another trip around the town centre today wearing a blindfold It is part of National Sight Day — a world-wide event organised by charity fund-raisers The Lions and the Bolton branch is keen to offer information about sight problems to Bolton shoppers during the day.

Anyone interested in finding out more should come along to Deansgate, near RBS, at 10am.