Since the start of ‘Lockdown’, I have offered some children I know, who are doing ‘Home Schooling’, the chance to be part of ‘We’re all in this together’ in www.virtualteatowelmuseum.com, a journey a lot of people have shared. Umaynah has already written a Diary for a week and researched Western Australia, ending up with a Tea Towel Blog, well researched and written. I offered her another challenge, if she wanted it, and she accepted.
Any Reader needs to understand the background to this: I have known Umaynah’s mother, Zakira, for more than 20 years. She worked for the organisation of disabled people that I worked for; she had a difficult job involving Direct Payments, necessitating home visits. I knew that Zakira did not like dogs, quite tricky if you are visiting people in their own homes, and if you are working with visually impaired people. I have a beautiful, old-fashioned tea towel from The Guide Dogs for the Blind. Umaynah’s task was (a) to research Guide Dogs for the Blind in order to be able to include it in a Blog and (b) to devise some questions, and then interview her mother, about her dislike of dogs and how it affected her work. The intention was the interview would be included in the article. So, here we go:
“When I was asked to write an article about the organisation called ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’, I thought it must be a charity that only provides trained dogs for people with visual impairments. As I started to research, I learnt that there is more to the charity than I thought. The organisation was set up in 1931 by Muriel Crooke and Rosalind Bond, in a lock-up garage in Wallasey, Merseyside. They trained the first four British Guide Dogs, called Judy, Flash, Folly and Meta.
Below are some important dates in the history of ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’:
1940: First Training Centre for Guide Dogs at Edmonscote Manor
1943: First edition of ‘Forward’ magazine published (still going strong)
1956: Recruitment of ‘Volunteer Puppy Walkers’ started
1960: Breeding programmes begin
1965: Blue Peter partnership made ‘Guide for the Blind’ a household name and ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ expands to Scotland.
1972: ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ started to offer allowances to help Guide Dog owners with the cost of feeding their dogs
1984-1986: New centres open in Belfast and Cardiff
1990: Opthalmic Research Grants were provided to research into health and new technologies
1991: The new central office was moved to Hillfields
2011: National Breeding Centre opens, creating capacity to breed 1500 puppies a year
2013: ‘My Guide’ service launched, providing volunteers to assist people with sight loss.
2017: ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ merged with ‘Blind Children UK’ (BCUK)
‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ provides many services:
Custom-Eye Books: large print books tailored to an individualised child’s need, subsidised by ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’. It costs the same as Recommended Retail Price (RRP).
Family Events: family events are a service provided so that children with sight loss can build confidence in making lifelong friends. There are events at a variety of venues like animal parks, theatres, playgrounds and theme parks (although not during ‘Lockdown’).
Assistive Technology and Grants: assistive technology, also called ‘access’ or ‘adaptive’ technology, helps children with sight loss play like everyone else. It includes laptops, tablets and computers, Braille devices and much more.
Education Support: they also help you find the right school for your child, whether it is nursery or university
Mobility Training: this service helps children move around safely and confidently. Some things that the Mobility Training sessions covers are how the body parts move, crawling and walking, identifying sounds like traffic and much more.
Family Support: this service offers practical and emotional support. Some of the times when you can get in touch are when your child’s vision has recently changed, if you have moved to a new area, you attend a hospital frequently for eye tests and medical appointments.
Sensory Equipment: sensory equipment can help a child with a visual impairment with social, emotional and technological skills
Guide Dogs for Children and Young People: Guide Dogs used to be for adults only but by 2006 the progress made means that there is now no minimum age for Guide Dog ownership.
Buddy Dogs: Buddy Dogs bring a positive effect to a child’s life. A Buddy Dog is a friendly, well-behaved pet dog which helps a child increase their physical activity, show a child responsibility of looking after a dog. It is owned by Guide Dogs for the Blind, and expenses are paid for, but looked after by the family.
In addition, Guide Dogs for the Blind, have National Breeding Centres, Guide Dog Training Schools, volunteering opportunities, organise an Award for Guide Dog of the Year, research and campaigning. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a charity, funded by donations and they also have fundraising events. You can help the Charity by helping to rehome retired dogs. Although, due to the global pandemic, the rehousing service was shut down, it is now open again but there will be some restrictions. If you would like to know more about the charity, and how you can help, the link follows: http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/
Guide Dogs for the Blind provide more than just training Guide Dogs. They have been, and are, supporting those with visual impairments since 1931.
That was an amazing piece of research, Umaynah. But, of course, there was the second part to your project. You have demonstrated that Guide Dogs are well-trained, so why doesn’t your mother like dogs and how does she get on with people who have both ordinary dogs and Guide Dogs?
Interview with Zakira: Home Visits and Dogs
Question 1: I understand that you did not like to go on home visits to houses where there are dogs. Why was this?
Answer 1: There are a few reasons as to why I do not like to go to houses where there are dogs. The first reason is that I never grew up around pets. I also have a fear of the unexpected nature of animals, through personal experience of watching a family member being attacked. I also don’t like the fact that they come close, sniff and lick me. The last reason is because I do not like to have dog hairs on me
Question 2: How would you feel about going to a house where the dog was kept in a separate room?
Answer 2: I am happy to visit houses where the owners agree to put their dogs in a separate room. I do feel a bit guilty about it when dogs whimper or bark outside the room, but I do feel that I should be able to do my job without any fears or feeling uncomfortable.
Question 3: Have you ever had to go to a house where dogs live? If so, how did you deal with it?
Answer 3: I have been to houses where there are dogs but most people put their dogs away when asked, or even automatically. There have been some owners who have refused and I have had to visit houses where there are dogs in the same room. Although, at mosaic, we have a practise to ask beforehand or we can offer appointments in the office if people do not want to move their dogs.
Question 4: Have you ever been to a house where there is a Guide Dog in the same room? If so, did you have the same feelings towards it?
Answer 4: I do feel different towards Guide Dogs as they are more trained which means they are less likely to come over and lick or sniff me. I also feel they are more relaxed because they are trained and so they will most likely stay with their owners.
That was a really interesting interview and shows how people do feel differently towards Guide Dogs.
Thank you Umaynah. That was a very interesting article. I hope you enjoyed doing it.