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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Guide Dogs Association of the Blind Ltd

Donated $200 to Guide Dogs Association of the Blind Ltd using dividends collected in my Permanent Stocks Holdings.

About the Association
The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB) was founded with the mission to help the blind or visually impaired enhance their quality of life through better mobility around their environment. To this end, we focus on providing mobility training to the blind or visually impaired, and for those deemed suitable, pair them with Guide Dogs eventually.

Guide Dogs are popularly used all over the world. The first Guide Dog in Singapore was brought in from Australia in 1982. Sadly, it had to be returned as the requisite infrastructural support and laws were nearly non-existent then.

However, as Singapore takes steps to foster a more caring and inclusive society, especially for persons with disabilities, barriers to mobility and accessibility are slowly, but surely, being taken down. Much work remains to be done in order to make Guide Dog usage easier in Singapore, and GDAB is committed to making further inroads for Guide Dog access with building owners, food establishments and regulators. It is our desire to integrate Guide Dogs seamlessly into Singapore’s society, thereby making them a good mobility aid and companion for the blind or visually impaired.

Our mission is to enable blind or visually impaired to be actively involved in society by enhancing their mobility and safety in travel with the use of Guide Dogs. In addition, we actively engage the community and society to help ensure a safe and secure environment to enable Guide Dog teams to work effectively.

To this end, we do the following:

1. We provide a full fledged Orientation & Mobility programme to the blind or visually impaired. This programme provides them with general mobility training using a cane. Our programme is taught by internationally recognized professionals with postgraduate qualifications in Orientation & Mobility.

2. We source for Guide Dogs for those who qualify. Guide Dogs are given to those who are mobile enough to handle one.

3. We continually work towards greater acceptance of Guide Dogs in Singapore society. We host a range of awareness-raising activities aimed at increasing understanding of the suffering of the blind or visually impaired and the benefits of providing Guide Dogs to those who need them.

The majority of GDAB’s beneficiaries are persons who are blind or visually impaired and are seeking rehabilitation help through our Orientation and Mobility Programme. Their profile cuts across age, race, gender and religion.

Typically, they suffer from low to zero vision arising from a range of acute eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa (“tunnel vision”), Stargardt’s Disease or other hereditary optic ailments etc.

They may also have lost their sight in their adulthood and thus face problems adjusting to their environment.

Another group of beneficiaries are those who have been paired with a Guide Dog brought in by GDAB. They have gone through extensive training in handling Guide Dogs and continue to undergo periodic mobility assessments with GDAB.

Guide Dog Team

Greater Acceptance of Guide Dog Usage
Since its inception, GDAB has been pushing constantly, behind the scenes, to create a more conducive environment for the usage of Guide Dogs in Singapore.

The Singapore Government, through the Ministry of Social and Family Development , is supportive of the use of Guide Dogs and has legislated laws on Guide Dogs access in public spaces. Furthermore, Singapore signed the United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on 30 Nov 2012, which sets out guidelines for the provision of facilities, services and measures to enable the disabled, as well as elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

Hence, potential Guide Dog users can be rest assured that Singapore is a lot more accepting of Guide Dogs today than it was only a few years ago. For example:

Guide Dogs on Public Transport Services

The Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) and Singapore Bus Services (SBS) have allowed Guide Dogs on their trains and public buses since 1987 and 2005 respectively.

Guide Dogs in HDB Flats
The Housing & Development Board (HDB) has made amendments to the “only small dogs” rule, allowing trained Guide Dogs, which are usually Labradors or Golden Retrievers, in high-rise homes on a “case-by-case” basis.

Guide Dogs in Restaurants and Food Centres
The National Environment Agency (NEA) has also amended the Environment Public Health Act to allow Guide Dogs into restaurants and food centres since 1 January 2006.

Currently, GDAB’s advocacy work is focused on increasing the acceptance of Guide Dogs in shopping malls and restaurants. It is indeed heartening to see that more and more retail and food establishments are opening their doors to Guide Dogs.

Orientation & Mobility Programme
The core of our organisation’s work is the Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Programme, which is conducted by qualified instructors. It is part of rehabilitating the blind or visually impaired, that is, to teach them how to use their remaining senses to travel safely and live more independently.

Specifically, Orientation is the process of using the senses to understand one’s position in the environment. Good Orientation training will lead to increased Mobility, and, the ability to move and function safely and efficiently in the environment.

Most of our beneficiaries lose their sight later in life, which often results in a loss of confidence in getting around independently. Hence, the Orientation & Mobility training is absolutely critical and beneficial in helping them to regain some degree of independence of movement. It is also a crucial first step for those who plan to get a Guide Dog eventually, as a blind or visually impaired person must be fairly mobile, fit and be able to travel independently to handle a Guide Dog.

The process of Orientation & Mobility Training is intensive, complex and tailored to suit the needs of the beneficiary. The basic process goes thus:

1. An initial assessment: the GDAB staff member will assess how mobile and independent the person already is. Our staff will interview the person, asking them questions such as:

●  Where do you currently travel to independently?

●  Where would you like to be able to travel to independently?

●  What are your goals?

●  Have you ever considered a Guide Dog?

Our staff will also assess their medical history and visual acuity. The initial assessment will also involve one or two sessions in which the staff can assess how well the person functions in his/her environment. This may includes:

●  Intersection Analysis: the person’s ability to determine which way to travel safely at an intersection.

Once the initial assessment is completed, training in specific Orientation & Mobility skills will begin.

2. Orientation & Mobility lessons: the instructor will use the initial assessment to write a training plan and begin training the person based on the plan drawn out. Most of the training is done according to the person’s needs and where they want to travel. Lessons are mainly conducted outdoors and on-site; frequency of training could vary from one to multiple sessions a week, which may last from 1 to 3 months or even longer.

The training process may cover areas like:

●  cane techniques;

●  use of escalators;

●  use of traffic aids to cross streets safely;

●  how to get public assistance;

●  how to create their own sequence of non-visual ‘signposts or cues’ along their routes, etc.

While our eventual aim is for our beneficiaries to get a Guide Dog, not all will be eligible. Even so, Orientation & Mobility training will help them to lead more independent lives.

Guide Dog Programme
Getting a Guide Dog requires training specifically in using a Guide Dog. This can only be done once the person who wants a Guide Dog has the Orientation & Mobility skills deemed necessary by the qualified assessor.

The assessment and selection criteria are stringent to ensure the client and family members are able to provide a safe and conducive environment for the Guide Dog, and allow our beneficiaries to benefit fully from a Guide Dog.

Assessment from a Guide Dog mobility instructor will cover things like:

●   The person’s independence (e.g. self-management, moving about from point A to point B, doing tasks, etc.);

●   Whether the person’s family would accept a Guide Dog, and whether the home environment is conducive to it;

●   Whether there is a need for a Guide Dog (e.g. the person commutes regularly/daily from home to point A or B);

●   The person’s ability to travel safely, and thus whether or not the dog will be kept safe.

If the person is deemed eligible to get a Guide Dog, further one-to-one training will be given to prepare the person to handle and care for a Guide Dog. Beneficiaries are paired with a suitable Guide Dog eventually, and both the handler and the dog then undergo training together so that they can work effectively in tight partnership.

The entire training is spread over 4-6 weeks, and follow-up training and assessments are also scheduled within the first year of pairing. Through daily routines, the handler and Guide Dog ultimately build up a strong bond such that they can move together as ‘one’.

“Eye”Live Independently(ELI)
This is a programme designed to help a blind or visually impaired person achieve greater independence in his/her home environment. The training focuses on daily living skills, and is especially useful for those who may be still adjusting to their recent vision impairment. Family members or caregivers who need to understand how best to assist the affected family member would also benefit from the training as well.
Training will cover a range of day-to-day tasks, varying to suit the needs of the client.

●  Personal Care Skills

○  E.g. grooming, dressing, identifying clothing

●  Domestic Skills

○  E.g. meal preparation, cutlery handling and eating

●  Communication Skills

○  E.g. telephone use, writing

●  General Skills

○  E.g. telling time, identifying and handling money

●  Social Skills

○  E.g. appropriate interpersonal / community behaviours. Body language, listening to conversational cues

●  Home Assessment

○  E.g. fall prevention, safety equipment prescription, lighting and contrast

●  Work Place / School Assessment

○  E.g. suitable mobility aids or features, safety measures to incorporate into the environment

●  Community Reintegration

○  E.g. budgeting, banking, shopping

●  Recreation / Leisure

●  Fine Motor / Gross Motor and Sensory Skill Assessment

Office Address :

28 Sin Ming Lane
Midview City, #08-139
Singapore 573972

Tel : (65) 6339 7900

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