Travel Restrictions Lead to Increased Demand for CNIB Guide Dogs
Travel restrictions, including border closures caused by COVID-19, have resulted in a 300% increase in interest for CNIB Guide Dogs applications.
Guide dog handlers who have travelled to the United States in the past to obtain a guide dog are now looking for a “made in Canada” solution as soon as possible.
Jack McCormick turned to CNIB Guide Dogs after he and his guide dog were hit by a distracted driver in March 2020. As a result, his guide dog was traumatized and had to retire.
“Not having a guide dog has decreased my confidence. I feel less safe when I travel. I’m constantly worrying about bumping into something or harming myself,” says McCormick, a 23-year-old Oakville, Ontario resident. “A guide dog can help me do so many things, like finding a seat on the bus. I have the flexibility and freedom to go to new places and do things that I can’t do with a white cane.”
The border closure means McCormick is unable to return to the school in the United States that provided him with a guide dog in 2014. Like so many other guide dog handlers in Canada, he is relying on CNIB Guide Dogs to match him with a guide dog to provide him with increased independence and connection with the world.
CNIB Guide Dogs’ Canine Campus opened in June, but physical distancing measures have meant group training is not an option. In order to keep staff and people who are training with their new guide dogs safe, CNIB Guide Dogs has adjusted its training program to accommodate one-on-one training – but that comes at a significant cost.
To meet the need for guide dogs in Canada, CNIB Guide Dogs must hire more guide dog trainers and guide dog mobility instructors. People with those specific skills are uncommon, so the organization is exploring apprentice opportunities.
Funded solely by the generosity of Canadians, CNIB needs more donors than ever before to ensure everyone has access to a guide dog for mobility, safety and confidence.
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