Photo by Sarika Dagar
Since March, LightHouse has been offering the workshop, “So, You Think You Want A Guide Dog?”, which helps people curious about guide dogs decide if one is right for them. Participants learn about common guide dog misconceptions, skills they need to have, researching and picking a guide dog school and the ins and outs of the application process. LightHouse Orientation & Mobility Specialist Katt Jones who thought up the idea, wanted to provide information that was impartial and beyond that offered by guide dog schools.
“I really wanted to broaden it to all guide dog schools and give students the tools to do their own research. It’s kind of like applying for college: there is no one right answer. Additionally, Bobbi Pompey, our Independent Living Skills Specialist, has a guide dog and talks about the independent living skills needed to have one. Many guide dog schools ask minimal questions about living skills during the application process.”
The first workshop was March 12, the day before LightHouse’s last day of face-to-face services prior to the shelter in place order came into effect in San Francisco. Katt explains how the workshops changed when they went virtual.
“Before shelter in place, I was envisioning doing three workshops over the course of a year. I thought we’d get 10 to 20 people per workshop, mostly local students that we have some connection to. After we went into shelter in place, I posted the info about the second workshop on Facebook groups and listservs. I woke up the next morning to about 50 emails.”
Due to the range of people wanting to sign up, Katt decided to develop special versions of the workshop, one for youth and their families, and another for educators.
“I was getting responses from O&M [Specialists] all over the country and in Canada. I had posted that the workshop was going to be for adults. Many of them said that they’d love for their students to be able to go, who were high school age or younger. I also wanted to figure out how to have one for educators, because there were so many who wanted this information. I worked with my supervisor, Kathy Abrahamson, to figure out how we could provide educators [continuing education] credits for certification.”
Sometimes, people change their minds about getting a guide dog after attending a workshop.
“One of my favorite stories was right after our last guide dog workshop for youth and families. There were a few students who were hanging on the call, just doing a little socializing and asking a couple last minute questions. A former student of mine said, ‘You know, I came in thinking I wanted a guide dog, and now I’m pretty sure I don’t.’ Another student said, ‘I wasn’t sure when I came in and I definitely know I want one now.’ It was great to see how these workshops help people along their process of trying to make these decisions for themselves.”
So why does Katt think these classes are so popular and successful?
“I think people are hungry for this knowledge because so many people love dogs. A lot of people just love dogs.”
The next “So You Think You Want A Guide Dog?” workshop is for high-school aged youth and adults who are blind or have low vision and takes place on the Zoom conferencing platform, July 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pacific. RSVP by July 15 to Briana Kusuma BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org and to obtain the Zoom log-in information.