Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) has announced a new partnership with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to embark on an in-depth, two-year research study to examine the long-term outlook for guide dog use in the United States and Canada.
This first-of-its-kind study seeks to determine why guide dog ownership is much more prevalent among people who are blind or visually impaired in the United Kingdom, compared to the United States and Canada. To do this, GDB will gather data from those with direct experience with GDB and guide dog schools in Europe.
The study will also include extensive interviews with orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors across North America to assess their training, skills, and knowledge in evaluating whether a guide dog is a viable option for students and clients who are blind or visually impaired. O&M instructors are an important link between people who are blind or visually impaired and the guide dog lifestyle, as they often advise their students about whether a guide dog is right for them as well as help teach O&M skills required to qualify for a guide dog.
“This is the most comprehensive research we’ve ever been a part of, and we hope its findings will help us remove barriers over the next decade for more new clients to experience the life-changing empowerment that a guide dog can bring to their lives,” said Theresa Stern, vice president of outreach, admissions, and alumni services for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “We’re thrilled to partner with the American Foundation for the Blind, a leader in designing research that leads to impactful policies and practices for people who are blind or visually impaired.”
"This collaboration with Guide Dogs for the Blind underscores AFB's commitment to evidence-based advocacy intended to empower people who are blind or have low vision,” said Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, AFB director of research. “We are grateful to partner with such a prestigious and historic organization and look forward to gathering and analyzing data that will ultimately better serve those who are visually impaired and anyone who is vested in providing people with vision loss options for independent travel.”
The two-year study will also take into account projections related to the most common occurrences of visual impairment and anticipated changes in demographics over the next 20 years. Its findings will be published in peer-reviewed research journals and will be presented at conferences focused on blindness.