When we say ‘Life is beautiful’ we speak in visual terms of the world we live in. Sight plays such a major part in determining where we go, what we do, what we eat, touch and enjoy, that, when we really want to think, taste, listen to music or smell something wonderful, we close our eyes so as not to be distracted by sight. Only then can we truly focus on our other senses.
A Visually Impaired Person (VIP) does not have this distraction. In a world designed for the sighted, the slightest freedom is denied to those who cannot see. A cup of coffee can be a dangerous hazard, furniture exists to trip people. Everything in their lives must be regulated, counted and memorised. How many steps to the door? Where is the sugar bowl? Whose voice is that? Does this shirt suit me? Is this safe to eat? Do I look neat and tidy? How much money do I have in my hand? How far away is that car?
Fortunately the human brain is a truly marvellous piece of bio-engineering, with the capacity to take the unused ‘sight space’ and put it to work enhancing other senses. However, this does not happen automatically, it has to be worked at extremely hard. That’s why a VIP has to depend a lot more on their hearing, touch, smell and taste. Enhanced senses do compensate to a certain degree, but a VIP still has to live in a sighted world. Simple tasks like travelling to work, shopping, drawing money, going to church or visiting friends are often difficult tasks without the assistance of a sighted friend.
Founded by Gladys Evans in 1953, the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind (GDA) breeds and trains dogs for a symbiotic partnership that represents one of the finest achievements of the human spirit and the finest example of the human/animal relationship and bond. A Guide Dog doesn’t just provide independence and freedom, it also breaks down barriers and initiates conversations. Everyone admires a Guide Dog and they are by their very profession good-natured, sociable animals.
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 is International Guide Dog Day. On this day we celebrate the ultimate expression of the human-animal bond, the Guide Dog. An International Day dedicated to our cause is a privilege and a blessing, and we want to use it to highlight as much as possible what Guide Dogs do for Differently-Abled People. There are so many highly intelligent and capable people out there who just happen to be Visually Impaired. Guide Dogs give them the ability to live a life as close to normal as possible. A Guide Dog improves the quality of life of a VIP and also gives them the opportunity to enhance the lives of others.
Please help us to raise awareness on this International Guide Dog Day. It is important to inform and educate society on the value and benefit of a Guide Dog to a VIP. For 2017 we wish to request that special attention will be given to VIP’s access rights to restaurants, shops, malls and public places, as this is nowadays an increasing problematic field with lots of education and training to be actioned with relevant staff and authorities.
More information on GDA’s activities could be obtained by visiting our website www.guidedog.org.za.