‘No-one ever stands up on the Tube. But the worst part is the tutting’: Blind ex-doctor, 37, straps a camera to his guide dog to capture the daily abuse he is subjected to by commuters.
- Amit Patel lost his sight after routine cornea transplants to correct blurry vision
- The former A&E doctor is now subjected to abuse by commuters on a daily basis
- People hit his guide dog with umbrellas to get past and he is ignored by staff
A blind former doctor has strapped a camera to his guide dog to capture the daily abuse they are subjected to by commuters. Amit Patel, who lost his sight after undergoing cornea transplants to correct his blurry vision, says he is constantly barged out of the way as he navigates around London.
The 37-year-old claims other travellers step over his guide dog Kika and even hit her with umbrellas to move out of the way on escalators.
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The former A&E doctor was working as a locum at hospitals around London when he started losing his sight three years ago, following six cornea transplants in Britain and two in America.
He was diagnosed with the condition keratoconus, which changes the shape of the cornea. During his final year of medical school by his flatmate who was a student optician.
After correcting his vision for around nine months, each transplant was then rejected by his body. Mr Patel says he has been told to apologise for being in the way and ignored by station staff – so the father-of-one attached a GoPro camera to Kika’s back to record the public’s behaviour.
His wife Seema reviews the footage at the end of the day and tweets about the pair’s travels around the capital. Mr Patel said people ‘deliberately’ hit him with their bags: ‘They have loads of space to get past but they seem to think it is fun to barge into a blind person.
‘Kika always sits to my left hand side so we often block the escalator and people will hit her with bags and umbrellas to get her to move out of the way.
‘The worst part is the tutting and negative comments behind me. People are so rude and arrogant and assume they can do whatever they want. ‘One lady even said I should apologise to the people behind her for holding them up. I asked her if I should apologise for being blind and she said, “yes”.
‘Sometimes I wonder who is the blind person when there are people glued to their mobile phones. ‘It really scares Kika sometimes, I can feel how upset she gets and when I get upset she senses it and she won’t go on the escalators for a few days.’
Mr Patel travels by train nearly every day and says he has been ignored by staff when he is in unfamiliar surroundings. He added: ‘Sometimes I get a train with my four-month old son and I say quite loudly “Kika, find me a seat” but no-one budges.
‘When my wife reviewed a piece of footage once a lady was sitting on one seat with her shopping on another. ‘Sometimes the only way I get a seat is to scratch Kika behind the ears so she shakes a little – no one likes a wet dog. It makes it so much harder than it needs to be.
There are taxi drivers who will see you and won’t stop, sometimes train staff will say they didn’t see me when they clearly did. People even walk right up to me then swerve at the last minute, and come up to Kika and touch her and distract her while she is walking.
‘Losing my sight is very lonely, if I’m travelling by public transport I’m sometimes like a scared little boy sat in the corner. Kika even saved her owner’s life when a car jumped a red light at a crossing.
Mr Patel added: ‘She saw the car, got in front of me and took the hit – the car grazed her nose. It was three days before she could work again.’ Kika, who has been with Mr Patel since 2014, is one of only five per cent of guide dogs trained to take their owner on an escalator.
The former University College Hospital doctor said: ‘I’ve lost the sight completely in my right eye and my left has nearly gone. ‘People assume that if you lose your sight that’s it, there’s no pain, but it’s excruciating. My other senses have increased though, my smell, hearing and touch.
Mr Patel now volunteers for RNIB, Action for Blind People and Guide. Dogs for the Blind to help coach new guide dog users.