Source: Roodepoort Record (Extract)
Posted: October 9, 2020

Dogs play an integral role in the daily lives of the visually impaired and the SA Guide-Dogs Association makes sure the right dog ends up in the right person’s home.

When you think about guide dogs, what’s the first picture that comes to mind?

Maybe it’s one of a faithful golden haired Labrador sitting patiently by his visually impaired owner’s feet, waiting to show the way? They’re much more than this, though.

Guide dogs become such an important part of their owners’ lives that it will not only be difficult to move around without them, but they can’t imagine a moment of the day that they’re not right there, providing support and affection in a dark world.

What should be remembered is that guide dogs need to undergo extensive training before they’re able to help the visually impaired. That’s where the South African Guide-Dogs Association (SAGDA) comes in.

According to the non-profit organisation, a guide dog needs to be carefully paired with the right person according to the dog’s temperament, working ability, the environment it’ll be working in and the person’s individual needs.

SAGDA teaches their dogs obedience, correct guiding position in relation to owner, how to avoid obstacles, how to turn correctly, to indicate steps up or down, to ignore distractions, to find orientation points such as curbs or doors, how to use elevators and escalators, and how to deal with road traffic.
In the end, someone in need of a guide dog will only pay a nominal fee of R205, but will be expected to afford to care for it every month.

Elizabeth Louw, Head of Orientation and Mobility at SAGDA explained that, “The loss of one’s vision is a scary and bewildering time during which people need support in order to learn new ways of accomplishing familiar tasks. There is a safe way to make oneself tea, for instance, and assistive devices can tell you when the cup is full.

The Guide-Dogs Association is located in Sandton but regularly helps the visually impaired in areas such as Krugersdorp and Roodepoort. SAGDA can be contacted on 011 705 3512 for any other enquiries.

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