October 10 is World Site Day and the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind are calling on people with vision impairments in Tipperary to consider training with a guide dog, or access its Orientation and Mobility (Long Cane) Training programme.
“There are many vision impaired people in Ireland today who are completely dependent on their relatives or friends for getting out and about. Because they have not had access to training and support with their mobility they rarely leave home alone,” said Padraig Mallon, CEO of Irish Guide Dogs.
“This can be very isolating and lonely. We want to get the message out there that we can provide support to them and getting access to independent living skills, long cane training or a guide dog is a positive doable experience that can be the difference between existing and really living your life.”
Currently 172 people have a guide dog in Ireland with an average of 40 Guide Dog Partnerships created each year. There are five people with a guide dog in Tipperary.
“People think a long cane or a guide dog may not be for them. They may fear the responsibility might outweigh any potential advantages,” continued Mallon. “They also may worry that having a dog marks them out as being different to other people and brands them as someone who has a disability. In our almost 40 years of experience however we have found universally positive response to having a guide dog, particularly from people who didn’t consider themselves ‘dog’ people or who simply thought it wasn’t for them.”
While Irish Guide Dogs operates a waiting list for its guide dog programme, given the holistic matching service between dog and person, people who apply for a guide dog may get a dog within 6-12 months, depending on location, routes, temperament and proficiency.
“The assessment and matching process are very important elements of our work,” said Deirdre Moriarty, Acting Operations Manager with Irish Guide Dogs. “Everything is assessed to ensure the dog is completely suitable for the person; we provide a very holistic, person-centred service.
“Having a Guide Dog can make a huge difference to a person who is visually impaired; it gives them back their independence and allows them to get around safely.”
There are many myths and assumptions about who is and isn’t eligible for the Guide Dog Programme, so here are the facts:
- Irish Guide Dogs work with people who have a range of visual impairments. People do not have to be completely blind to train with a dog. All services are provided free of charge, including a three-week residential training programme with the dog in the charity’s HQ in Cork.
- The lower age limit is 16 and there is no upper age limit for getting a Guide Dog.
- Irish Guide Dogs also provide a range of other training and mobility programmes, including training with a lone cane and independent living skills. It also provides Assistance Dogs to children with autism.
- Call the LoCall number 1850 506300 for more information.