The SA Guide-Dogs Association launched its Freedom campaign last Thursday to raise awareness of the work it does.
The organisation’s vision is for a country where everyone with a disability can have freedom and independence, says the association’s marketing manager, Jackie Quall.
“Many South Africans know that the association provides guide dogs to people who are visually impaired, but many are still unaware of the other life-changing services provided by the association,” she said.
Apart from training dogs for the blind, the association also trained service dogs and autism-support dogs, she said.
The guide dogs are trained at the association’s branch in Claremont while the service and autism-support dogs undergo training in Johannesburg.
The association also has staff who help the visually impaired get used to performing essential tasks like cooking, using a cane and going to an ATM.
The campaign would demonstrate how the association’s clients made use of the dogs, said Ms Quall.
At the launch, guide-dog mobility instructors ran a few training drills and took guests on a blindfolded walk with a guide dog to explain how the dogs navigate obstacles.
Andrew Merryweather, a 40-year-old paraplegic from Rondebosch, relies on his service dog, Oslo, to help him with daily activities. “When I go grocery shopping, he carries my groceries for me; he helps with opening and closing doors and provides emotional support.”
Lia Khan, a 17-year-old from Plumstead with cerebral palsy, also has a service dog, Luigi. “He makes a big difference in picking up things for me, opening and closing doors and placing clothing in laundry basket.”
Lia’s mother, Fiona Khan, said Luigi had given a lot of emotional support and assistance to her daughter.
Charlie Dyasi, 31, from Khayelitsha, is visually impaired and relies on his guide dog, Billy, to get him where he needs to be. “I only see colours and shadows, so I get navigation from Billy when I am walking in the street,” he said.
Mr Dyasi said he is a fast walker so the organisation had paired him with a guide dog that could keep up.
Ward Councillor Katherine Christie said: “ Blind people and visually impaired people deserve the freedom and independence that we take for granted.”
Groote Schuur Lions president Sharon Wright said their organisation would continue to support the SA Guide-Dogs Association. “They do fantastic work in helping people get independence in order to carry out their daily activities,” she said.
To support the association’s Freedom campaign, SMS “Freedom” to 42130 to donate R30 or visit www.guidedog.org.za or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.