Most people love puppies- especially guide dogs! Guide dogs are one of the possible mobility aids a person who is visually impaired can use to get around safely and independently. A cane finds obstacles, while a guide dog avoids obstacles. According to several guide dog schools, the average age of individuals seeking dog guides is steadily increasing.
Discussion topics include:
• O&M requirements for a guide dog
• Alternative training routes for O&M and to get a guide dog
• How to determine the best candidates for a guide dog
• How to apply and the needed documents/etc.
• Why counselors and teachers should consider guide dogs for older individuals.
Rivi Israel has been a guide dog instructor since 2004, where she began her career at The Seeing Eye, Inc. She was an instructor there for ten years, then took the position of Director of Training at Freedom Guide Dogs, in Cassville, NY. Rivi has been employed by The Guide Dog Foundations and America’s Vet Dogs since 2017 and currently holds the position of Guide Dog Program Manager.The Guide Dog Foundations mission statement is: To improve the quality of life for people who are blind, visually impaired, or who have other special needs. Since 1946, the Guide Dog Foundation has provided guide and service dogs, free of charge, to qualified people who seek the increased freedom, mobility, and companionship. The Guide Dog Foundation’s sister organization is America’s Vet Dogs.
Marc Gillard has worked in the guide dog field for 27 years. Originally from Melbourne, Australia he began his guide dog career in 1992 with the Royal Guide Dogs Associations of Australia as an apprentice GDMI becoming a qualified instructor in 1995. Marc also received a graduate diploma in Orientation and Mobility from La Trobe University in Melbourne and is a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist here in the United States. Marc has worked at GDB on two occasions the first in 1996 where he worked as a field service manager for three years. Following this he assisted with the development of a new guide dog organization in Vancouver, British Columbia as Training Manager for British Columbia Guide Dog Services. In 2000 he returned to Australia to work at Guide Dogs Victoria as the Principal Instructor for Staff Training later being promoted to Guide Dog Services Team Leader and then Guide Dog Services Manager overseeing all aspects of guide dog operations including guide dog training and client services. In 2006 he rejoined Guide Dogs for the Blind as a Field Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area and in 2013 worked as a founding member of the newly established GDB Support Center. In 2016 Marc became GDB’s first Orientation & Mobility Services Manager responsible for the creation and management of the O&M Immersion Program, coordination of GDB’s O&M seminars and providing outreach to blindness professionals. Marc was an assessor for the International Guide Dog Federation between 2004 and 2013 and completed assessments in Belgium, Israel, France, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan. He was also a member of the IGDF Instructor Education Taskforce. Marc has given presentations throughout the world including Australia, USA, France, Switzerland, England and Croatia. In 2011 he co-authored an article about assisting handlers following attacks on guide dogs which was published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness. In 2015 Marc received the Sue Sullivan Award which is given in appreciation of a GDB staff member who has made extraordinary contributions to the GDB community. The Guide Dog mission statement is: "Guide Dogs for the Blind empowers lives by creating exceptional partnerships between people, dogs, and communities."
Tim Hindman is the Director of Client Programs at Guide Dogs of the Desert in Palm Springs, California. This program is a small guide dog training school focusing on Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles. They provided guide dogs to the community since 1972. Over the last five years, they have seen a profound change in the average age of their applicants. They now come to Guide Dogs of the Desert in the 58-62 year old range. Age-related vision loss seems more than likely contributing to this trend. He has worked for ten years with the state of New Hampshire’s older blind program before coming to Guide Dogs of the Desert. Community engagement with the issues involving their older blind population is still a priority in my rehab focus.
David Lockin has 20 years experience in guide dog training. His career started with Guide Dogs for the Blind in the United Kingdom where he was a guide dog mobility instructor before becoming their service delivery manager. Since 2014 David has been LDB's director of programs overseeing the training department and the outreach services & community engagement department. Among David's responsibilities is ensuring that all programs meet International Guide Dog Federation standards and that the needs of all clients are being met.