Becoming a 'community sighted guide'

Posted on March 18, 2019 by Erica Gomer

We're always looking for new ways bring our purpose to life and make a positive difference to peoples' lives in our communities. AU Guide Dog

That's why a number of us from the Simplyhealth Professionals Vets team recently took part in Level 1 of the `Guide Dog - My Guide programme' to become `Community Sighted Guides'.

The ability to get around is vital in order to live a full life. Yet thousands of people who are visually impaired are never able to (or never feel able to) leave home alone.

`My Guide', run by Guide Dogs, is a free service that helps people with a vision impairment get out of their homes and into the community with a trained volunteer as their sighted guide.  It ensures they can continue to do the things they want to do through regular outings that help them maintain their independence.

During our training session, we learned how to give appropriate assistance to someone with sight loss; helping them navigate their environment safely whilst, most importantly, maintaining their dignity and independence.

We also learned that in the UK 75 people register as blind or partially sighted every day, with only 16% of visually impaired people feeling they receive the emotional support that they need. Additionally, the cost to train a guide dog amounts to £55,000.

AU Guide PhotoAt our practical session we were shown how to guide people through narrow spaces, doors and down the stairs.  Taking our training to the next level, we then ventured outside in pairs and walked across roads with one of us blindfolded and the other guiding.  What would normally take us two minutes took over 15 minutes.  We had to listen really carefully for cars and our sight guides had to work hard to take us through each step to make us aware of what was happening in our environment.

The `My Guide' training was a great way to learn how to assist a visually impaired person without crossing personal boundaries or manhandling. It gave us a much greater appreciation for how exhausting it can be for someone with sight loss to navigate their daily life.  We all now feel that we're far more likely to recognise a situation when someone might need some help or support and we'll certainly be more confident and better equipped to assist. It's great to know that, individually, we'll be able to make a more positive impact within our communities. 

We're also really pleased that Simplyhealth will be making a donation to Guide Dogs to support them with delivering more training. This ongoing training will enable even more people to make a contribution to our communities and support even more people living with sight loss.

If you'd like to take part in the training and become a `community sighted guide' yourself, or find out about the many other ways you can support and volunteer for Guide Dogs, click here for more information.

Erica Gomer
Vets Corporate Services Administration Manager