[nagdu] Guides at NFB training centers
mike at michaelhingson.com
Sun Aug 30 20:29:14 UTC 2015
I want to address comments by Lisa and Raven.
First, the center staff asks students not to use guide dogs during much of
the training, including travel class, both in order to teach cane travel and
to provide lessons concerning orientation or what we have come to know as
"structured discovery". These concepts while supposed to be known in part by
guide dog users seem not to be understood. I have seen many questions on
this list which show people's lack of confidence or a lack of knowledge of
good orientation skills.
Even guide dog training programs do encourage their consumers to come having
attained good orientation skills as they recognize that they cannot spend
the month or less that students are in their programs teaching orientation
and mobility or adjustment. Leader Dogs has a one-week, I believe that is
the time, mobility course. That is not nearly enough time to learn and
develop good orientation skills in my opinion. However, it is a start for
The centers have a job to do. Using a guide dog during travel will not
promote the learning of good travel skills that are learned when learning to
use the most basic travel tool, the cane.
Now let's move to items such as calling the centers "attitude factories".
While that is not the term I would have coined that is what they are. The
purpose of the centers is to put together a program that not only teaches
consumers travel and other skills, but they teach attitudes about blindness.
Their most basic function is to help their attendees to understand that
blindness is NOT what holds them back. Remember that people come to the
centers usually not knowing much about being blind because they have either
never been exposed to good role models or they are newly blinded. In both
cases they, like the rest of us, have lived in a world where people with
eyesight constantly remind us, consciously or not, that blind people cannot
live as well or as productively as they. Every person on this list can cite
examples of this. Here is one I observed last year.
I was in a store with a relative. We just arrived at the checkout counter
where there was another customer in front of us. I was not using Africa, but
rather a cane. My cane hit the person in front of me and I, because the line
was close, also slightly bumped into the person. While I immediately
apologized my relative jerked me back and later did not even recognized that
I had interacted with the other customer including apologizing. By the way,
the customer said "no problem". Even today the relative and his wife feel
what he did was right calling it "natural behavior". It is not "natural
behavior", but learned behavior due to poor attitudes about us. I have lived
around those people for many years and still today they are really
uncomfortable about blindness and me. They are also uncomfortable around my
wife, Karen, who is the actual blood relative.
Centers teach many of us to have the confidence or yes, attitude, that we
are really part of society and that we can be whatever we want if we can
dream it. Most "orientation and mobility centers" in this country and
elsewhere do not focus on attitude as the NFB centers do. So yes, our
centers are in a way attitude factories and I am glad of it.
I have not attended a center, but I worked for quite a while with Dr.
Jernigan in the late 70s during the development of the original Kurzweil
Reading Machine. I spent much time at the Iowa Commission for the blind
observing and participating in some of the commission activities. Dr.
Jernigan used this time as part of my "training" in Federation philosophy
and in how he worked with employees and clients. That training was
invaluable to me and I keep it in mind and use it daily.
I have spent time observing and working around our NFB training centers and
see not only the Jernigan influence, but how the processes of the centers
have evolved including how guide dogs are treated. I for one do not believe
anyone can develop a similar center based on using a guide dog. The
interactions are different. The whole process would be different due to the
nature of how a blind traveler and their guide dog interact. The same level
of learning environmental awareness and "structured discovery" would not
work. As the old adage goes "you must learn to walk before you can learn to
run". We can learn to run, as it were, with guide dogs or canes, but
learning to "walk" with a guide dog, that is learning the basic orientation
and travel skills, will not happen with a guide dog as easily or as well,
for the most part, as with a cane. Even the guide dog training programs
acknowledge it so I think that debating it further is not productive.
I hope this helps the discussion at hand. I would suggest that anyone who
disagrees with what the NFB training centers do should take the time to
contact the centers and learn about the programs. Don't take my word for it.
Don't take the word of anyone else as your only source of information. Call
or visit and then discuss.
From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Lisa via nagdu
Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2015 10:00 AM
To: NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users
<nagdu at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Lisa <dreamymarmot93 at yahoo.de>
Subject: Re: [nagdu] Guides at NFB training centers
I have a question regarding the training centers.
Why does the dog have to stay in an office while the student is in class
whereas it is totally normal to have the dog with you _in_ the class
room/office at school, college or university? Wouldn't we all be very
annoyed if a college had the policy of leaving the dog in the headmaster's
office during class?
I'd just be interested in the difference that obviously exists between
learning at the center and at a mainstream school or work.
Thanks for explanations.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Marianne Denning via nagdu" <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
To: "NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users"
<nagdu at nfbnet.org>
Cc: "Marianne Denning" <marianne at denningweb.com>
Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2015 6:43 PM
Subject: Re: [nagdu] Guides at NFB training centers
> 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:
>> A few thoughts...
>> First I do not believe that guide dogs and canes are diametrically
>> as you previously asserted I said. I believe they are different, but
>> many of the skills are similar or overlapping. I believe that
>> skills are the much, much larger part of orientation and mobility
>> 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
>> However the larger orientation skills take months and months to learn and
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> obvious thing and they are going to suggest it. The person may never
>> up on the subtle indications of where that door is. They don't learn
>> base skill to be able to build on it later and perhaps later the dog
>> know which way to go in the mall because there is no obvious choice.
>> the person hasn't learned to recognize other clues in the environment,
>> 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
>> of people are not like you. They are attending the center training
>> they need to better their skills, all of their skills. We do have
>> attend our center with their guide dog. Here they work their dog in
>> free time, before and after classes and at the lunch break. As the
>> progresses, the dog is incorporated into travel class and other times.
>> 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
>> will need to retire. For about 99.9% of us this means using a cane when
>> dog is unavailable. It's unrealistic to think that someone will be able
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> independent travel than mobility. What if a person went to a center
>> 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
>> to cross the street, when there are stairs, when there's road
>> 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
>> were going to eat microwave dinners for the rest of their life, no one
>> think that a good idea either. The centers recognize that personal
>> independence through skill training includes a wide variety of skills.
>> 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
>> after center training that's a choice, not a necessity. To me that's
>> it's really about, having the choice to pick from a wide variety of
>> to find the one that best fits the particular situation I find myself in.
>> nagdu mailing list
>> nagdu at nfbnet.org
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> Marianne Denning, TVI, MA
> Teacher of students who are blind or visually impaired
> (513) 607-6053
> nagdu mailing list
> nagdu at nfbnet.org
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