The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. was founded in 1946. It is a non-profit organization that provides guide dogs, free of charge, to people who are blind or visually impaired and seek the increased independence, mobility, and companionship that guide dog provides. The dogs are bred for gentleness and sound temperament as well as to be able to maneuver around obstacles and guide their owner to safety.
Most of us have dreams and goals; however, we would be disheartened if we had to attempt to achieve them in darkness. For most people with sight, the thought of becoming blind is difficult to comprehend. There are many citizens who live and have lived without sight all their lives, but they continue to be productive citizens.
The Guide Dog Foundation has small classes and individualized instruction. Each student receives special attention, and the meticulous matching program ensures that each visually impaired person is paired with the guide dog that best suits that person’s personality, lifestyle, and physical needs. Each of the clients is diverse. They range from attorneys and social workers to teachers and homemakers. The men and women served by the Foundation commute by subway, hold high-powered jobs, camp, ski, golf and play instruments. They come to the Foundation from all over America and abroad to train with a guide dog. This helps them in achieving their goals and dreams independently.
The training program is a 25-day in-residence curriculum at the Smithtown, New York campus. The blind person is taught the skills and commands needed to foster a successful team with the guide dog. The team can confidently and independently travel on suburban routes just as they can on city streets during the night or day. It is a challenge to form a successful team, but the Foundation meets it. The breeding and training of one guide dog is $25,000, and the Foundation makes that possible for 70 visually impaired persons annually.
The Guide Dog Foundation continues to provide its guide dogs free of charge. In addition to providing a second sight through the use of guide dogs, the Foundation offers public awareness to broaden society’s understanding of vision, visual impairment, blindness, and disability rights.