The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (the UK charity which trains assistance dogs for visually impaired people) is campaigning to raise the issue of the danger posed by electric cars to those with sight loss.
Electric vehicles make little noise which make them particularly dangerous to people who are visually impaired and rely on their hearing to get around safely.
While out for a walk with my guide dog, Trigger earlier today a lady began to stroke him while he was guiding me past a car which was, rather inconveniently parked on the pavement. I smiled and said,
“I don’t mind you stroking my dog, but please don’t do so while he is working as it could put both me and my dog in danger”.
The lady apologised and I continued on my way.
Unfortunately the above incident is far from being an isolated occurance. I have experienced people attempting to pet Trigger while in the midst of crossing a busy London road, which could have had disastrous consequences for both him and I.
As I said to the lady this morning, I have no objection to people stroking my guide dog. However the bottom line is to use common sense. By distracting a working guide dog the person responsible runs the risk of causing the animal to lose concentration. This could result in the owner becoming intimately acquainted with a lamp post or the bumper of a large lorry, not something which anyone wants to have on their conscience.
There is a good short piece on GDBA’s website on tips for approaching a guide dog owner. The golden rule, as set out in that piece is to always ask and not assume that speaking to or petting the dog is OK. As a guide dog owner I will, in most instances readily agree to a request to fuss Trigger. He works hard and deserves to be stroked, cuddled and generally loved. However, when working attention given to a guide dog can be highly dangerous so, please ask before approaching any assistance dogs.
There is, some 5 minutes walk from my home a particularly busy side road. During the rush hour a stream of vehicles uses the road making it problematic for a sighted person (let alone a registered blind guide dog owner, such as myself to cross in safety). Guide dogs are taught to work in a straight line and to avoid obstructions. On reaching a down kerb the dog stops and waits for the owner’s instructions regarding when to cross. While guide dogs do have training on crossing roads it is (as one guide dog trainer explained it to me) rather like having a young child assist you to cross. The young child (we are talking about a 4-5-year-old here) will (if properly instructed by adults on road safety) have some conception of road safety, however one wouldn’t want to place one’s life in their hands when traversing busy traffick. Consequently guide dog owners should ask for help at busy roads only trusting to their dog’s abilities in the event that no help is available. Obviously the presence of zebra and pelican crossings mean that visually impaired people can cross in safety at such places, however the road I am talking about is neither of these. Having said all that, I am extremely lucky as my guide dog, Trigger is very cautious and has saved me on several occasions from walking out in front of oncoming vehicles which, along with his loveable personality makes us extremely close.
Many drivers, on seeing me and Trigger stop to let us cross. This is as it should be at zebra and pelican crossings. However in certain instances the helpfulness of drivers unintentionally puts Trigger and I at risk. For example, at the side road mentioned above, traffick comes from both left and right. I have often experienced drivers to the right of me stopping and beeping their horns or shouting “it’s safe to go mate”, only to have vehicles continuing to traverse the road from the left. What is extremely helpful in such situations is for a driver to stop his vehicle and if it is safe to do so leave it and assist me in crossing. This has happened several times but on many other occasions drivers have, I am sure scratched their heads in frustration as they wonder why that stupid blind guy with the brindle lab retriever isn’t responding to their helpful advice that it is safe to cross! The answer is, of course that said guy doesn’t particularly feel like decorating the wind screen of an oncoming vehicle as it comes in, at speed from the left! So if you encounter a guide dog owner while driving please don’t shout out of your vehicle that it safe to cross. I know you mean well and I do, genuinely appreciate your kindness, however you may, wholly unintentionally be putting me or other guide dog owners at risk. If it is safe to do so please do stop for a moment and assist me or the other guide dog owner across the road. You will be performing an invaluable service which will be greatly appreciated by me or which ever guide dog owner you assist.
This morning, as usual I took my guide dog, Trigger to the park in order that he might fertilise the vegetation, (there is a wooded area away from where children congregate so his business card causes no issues)!
On the way home Trigger stopped dead in his tracks as there was a large vehicle blocking a drive which I needed to cross in order to continue on my way. “The vehicle will move out into the road once there is a gap in the traffick” I thought. However several gaps came and went but it remained immovable. I began cursing silently wondering whether I might be able to judge a break in the traffick, step off the kerb and negociate the vehicle without running the risk of ending up decorating the paint work of some ppassing car with colourful red splodges! Fortunately a man came to my rescue and assisted me to bypass the vehicle,
“Some stu …”.
“We where unloading something, sorry” my saviour said.
Oops, I wonder if he caught the gist of what I was starting to say,
“Some stupid person has parked their vehicle so that its blocking the pavement”! A Victor Meldrew moment on my part!