A BLIND lady has criticised thoughtless passengers as she revealed how important her Guide Dog is to her independence.

Jolene Clark, 27, from Basildon, was born visually impaired and is registered as blind. She needs the help of her faithful guide dog, Zena, to cope with everyday situations such as getting off the bus at the correct stop and taking her nine-year-old son Cameron to school.

She revealed how important Zena has been and how important other people realise this too.

On November 28, Jolene and Zena sat in priority seats, leaving the wheelchair and buggy section of bus 8a from Laindon free. Two ladies boarded with their prams, followed by another lady.

During this time she ran over Zena and wouldn’t move the pram off her.

Jolene said: “She was asked to move it back and be careful, but she did the same thing again and was more insistent on getting her pram past. In doing so she hit me and ran Zena over again and left the pram resting on Zena.”

As a result of this, Zena has now become frightened of crowds, whimpering and shaking uncontrollably whenever a bus gets busy.

Jolene continued: “Without a guide dog I’m not able to get out and about as freely as those with sight. Having a guide dog has given me so much confidence I never new I could have. She helps keep my anxiety low when I’m out.

“Guide dogs are so important to those who have a visual impairment.

“Having Zena has changed my life. I now am able to get out of the house and go to places with my son which I never thought was possible. She enables me to be an independent woman and mum.

“When situations like this happen, it can stop the guide dog from working and then they get retired early which means the owner has to go through the process of going back on the list and waiting all over again.

“The anxiety that I have that if she stops working and that I’ll lose her is very real.”

Jolene and Zena were paired together on September 15, 2017.

“When I look back how my life was before Zena to now, the difference is phenomenal and to lose her would have such a detrimental impact on my life.

“Before Zena I had a lot of broken bones and near misses with cars. I also had no confidence and would avoid going out at all costs because it was easier and safer.

“Since having her I have travelled, gone on holiday, gone to the gym, joined Billericay park run and gone out and enjoyed life.

Jolene puts all her trust in her faithful companion, saying: “Putting 100 per cent trust into a dog to guide you takes time, it took me four days and it was when I was in the complete darkness.”

Jolene has approached accessibility organisations such as the Blind & Sight Impaired Society (BASIS) for help following the incident.

Michelle Thomson, general manager at BASIS, said: “Having a guide dog is life changing for the visually impaired. We often meet people who are at their most vulnerable, that are isolated and struggle to get out.

“We are either introduced to people when they are first diagnosed, or when they have lived with the impairment a long time without knowing what help was out there.”