[nagdu] Guides at NFB training centers

Marianne Denning marianne at denningweb.com
Sun Aug 30 16:43:05 UTC 2015

Julie, wwhere do you work?  Is the decision to let the person work
with their dog based on each individual's progress through the

On 8/30/15, Julie J. via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Raven,
> A few thoughts...
> First I do not believe that guide dogs and canes are diametrically opposed,
> as you previously asserted I said.  I believe they are different, but that
> many of the skills are similar or overlapping.  I believe that orientation
> skills are the much, much larger part of orientation and mobility training.
> Folks learn to use a guide dog for mobility in less than a month.  I also
> believe that you can learn to use a cane strictly for mobility in that time.
> However the larger orientation skills take months and months to learn and
> master.
> I've said before that it is preferable to learn orientation skills while
> using a cane.  This is because it causes you to learn without confusing a
> dog or inadvertently relying on input from the dog.  Here's an
> example...early in O&M training here at our center, people learn the skill
> of identifying where the door out of a room is, even if they are the only
> person in the room.   This skill is the predecessor to more advanced skills
> like mall travel where you need to be able to recognize when you pass a
> certain store or leave one area of the mall for another and the like when
> there is no distinct doorway.  Here's the thing though, if you are a dog
> user, even if you do not cue the dog to find the door, it is going to be the
> obvious thing and they are going to suggest it.  The person may never pick
> up on the subtle indications of where that door is.  They don't learn that
> base skill to be able to build on it later and perhaps later the dog doesn't
> know which way to go in the mall because there is no obvious choice. Because
> the person hasn't learned to recognize other clues in the environment, they
> don't know how to direct the dog.
> Raven, you seem to have very good O&M skills.  For you it may make little
> difference if you went through center training with a cane or dog, but
> having worked at a center, I can absolutely tell you that the huge majority
> of people are not like you.  They are attending the center training because
> they need to better their skills, all of their skills.    We do have people
> attend our center with their guide dog.  Here they work their dog in their
> free time, before and after classes and at the lunch break.  As the training
> progresses, the dog is incorporated into travel class and other times.  By
> the very end of training, the person will be back to working the dog the
> majority of the time.
> We all know that dogs get sick,  tragic things happen and eventually the dog
> will need to retire.  For about 99.9% of us this means using a cane when the
> dog is unavailable.   It's unrealistic to think that someone will be able to
> work their dog 100% of the time for the person's entire lifetime.   So if
> you don't have decent cane skills this means you are going to need a human
> guide, put your life on hold or have two dogs at all times. Seems to me
> having learned to use a cane would be a good base skill to have.
> I know that all of the programs have requirements about being able to use a
> cane or show that you have good O&M skills.  But let's be brutally honest
> with ourselves for a minute,  we all know that what passes for good O&M
> skills varies widely from program to program.  I also cannot begin to count
> the number of stories I have heard from people who attended a program and
> had classmates who couldn't find their way around without significant help.
> To me it's pretty clear that folks with guide dogs do not all have good
> orientation skills.  Perhaps we could work with the guide dog programs to
> help them better understand the importance of acquiring good orientation
> training before getting a dog.
> You made the argument that a dog is your preferred mobility tool and the
> center programs should support that decision.  I think they do, but that
> they also recognize that a dog is a mobility tool and that there is more to
> independent travel than mobility.    What if a person went to a center and
> said they use GPS, so they don't need to learn orientation skills?  that
> would be silly and no one would think that a good idea.  GPS only goes so
> far in getting you where you want to go.  It doesn't tell you when it's safe
> to cross the street, when there are stairs, when there's road construction
> or when a kid has parked his bike across the sidewalk.  If someone went to a
> center and said they didn't need to learn to use the stovetop because they
> were going to eat microwave dinners for the rest of their life, no one would
> think that a good idea either.   The centers recognize that personal
> independence through skill training includes a wide variety of skills.  It
> means moving out of your comfort zone and learning new things.  Perhaps
> there are people who only use the microwave to cook, but the point is that
> after center training that's a choice, not a necessity.  To me that's what
> it's really about, having the choice to pick from a wide variety of skills
> to find the one that best fits the particular situation I find myself in.
> Julie
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Marianne Denning, TVI, MA
Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired
(513) 607-6053

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