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Guide Dogs to raise awareness of how everyone can help

Busy cluttered high streets, unfamiliar places, crowded shops, obstacles on pavements, complex town centres – sometimes, in our modern environment, people with sight loss need an extra helping hand to get around, even if they have a guide dog or use a cane. During Guide Dog Week (06 to 12 October), Guide Dogs will lead the way in educating the public on how they can provide practical sighted guiding techniques to assist visually impaired people.

The campaign will inform the public and service providers of the best and safest way to guide visually-impaired people who might need assistance in particularly difficult circumstances, such as at a busy road junction, in a railway station or entering a shop. The five helpful hints are:

1. Say who you are and offer help, communicate clearly and listen to the visually impaired person's request (they will confirm if they want sighted guided assistance)

2. Ask where and how the person would like to be guided

3. Allow the person to take your arm rather than you holding theirs

4. Say if you are approaching steps (and if they are going up or down), kerbs or hazards

5. Don't forget to say when you have finished providing the assistance and are leaving the person

A ‘How to guide’ booklet and DVD will be available for members of the public and service providers, which clearly illustrates the five helpful hints to enable people to feel confident in applying the guiding techniques, should the need arise to offer assistance to a person with sight loss.

Guide Dogs’ staff and volunteers, from its network of nearly 30 local District Teams across the UK, will be holding a series of awareness days in town and city centres, highlighting the national education campaign.

As part of Guide Dog Week, the charity will also be highlighting good practice in approaching and assisting a guide dog owner. This will include tips such as:

1. Never distract a guide dog in harness. The dog will be concentrating on guiding its owner and if distracted, it might put itself and its blind or partially sighted owner in danger. Ignore the guide dog completely at all times, both when it is in harness or on a lead, and even avoid eye contact

2. A guide dog owner will indicate the need for sighted guide assistance when the dog is in harness by allowing the harness-handle to lie on the dog's back, whilst maintaining hold of the lead

3. As a guide dog always walks on the left of the owner, allow the owner to take your left arm if they require sighted guide assistance

4. Never tell a guide dog what to do as it is up to the guide dog owner to give the dog instructions and directions

5. Never feed a guide dog, as they have a perfectly balanced diet and should only be fed by the guide dog owner.

A ‘How to guide’ booklet and DVD can be ordered by calling 0870 240 6993.

During Guide Dog Week the charity will also be highlighting and promoting its on-going important work in supporting blind and partially sighted people through ophthalmic research and providing a variety of rehabilitation services and mobility solutions – in addition providing the core guide dog service, for which it is so famous.

Says Bridget Warr, chief executive of Guide Dogs: “The charity takes very seriously its role in raising awareness of the impact of sight loss. Increasing public understanding of visual impairment is an important part of our work in promoting the mobility and independence of blind and partially-sighted people, and a vital support to our core guide dog service.

“The more people learn about the challenges of getting around our busy towns and cities with limited or no vision, the more confident and sensitive they will be in providing appropriate guiding assistance.”