If a dog is man's best friend, then for many blind students it is an essential study companion.
One thing to bear in mind is that for a blind student, a guide dog may actually make fieldwork possible, where the absence of a dog may make certain activities extremely difficult to undertake.
How should you accommodate a student's guide dog? How should other students behave with the dog around? And what specific implications does a guide dog have for field study? Many general answers are available on the Web site of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (http://www.guidedogs.org.uk), or through the links to the many guide dog Web sites in North America listed on the Ability Web site (http://www.ability.org.uk/Guide_Dogs.html).
In planning fieldwork which includes a blind student bringing along their dog, there are a number of issues that need to be considered:
Ask the visually impaired student when and where they are likely to need to be accompanied by their guide dog. Where the dog is not needed, consider whether it may need to be quartered. Many blind students will always want to be accompanied by their dog, even if you feel there may be no 'need' for their presence — e.g. in a briefing session at the study venue.
In most people's experience, a dog is a pet. But in the life of a blind student, a dog performs an essential role — i.e. like guard dogs, tracker dogs or sniffer dogs, they are working animals first and foremost. This means that students may need to be alerted to the fact that the VI student's guide dog should not be treated as a pet. Rather, the following rules of engagement might be more appropriate:
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 115 4