Monday, June 29, 2009
Hope For Independence
I’ve always wondered how Ashley would be able to travel and live independently given both her hearing and vision loss. She has a white cane, and that helps some. But, because she is also deaf, she can’t hear oncoming traffic, the sound of a siren, a car horn, a doorbell, or a smoke alarm. So short of a sighted guide and a fulltime personal aide, I didn’t know if she would ever be able to travel and live independently. But my hopes are renewed after reading this story in the Jerusalem Post.
The Ali Hope Foundation is one of only a small number of programs worldwide to train dogs for individuals who are both deaf and blind. As noted in the news story, of those programs, most, such as Leader Dogs in Rochester, Michigan, train the dogs only as guides, not assistants or alarm messengers. "Leader Dogs are trained to guide individuals who are both deaf and blind, not to alert them to sounds," states the Leader Dogs Web site. Others teach dogs to perform both guide tasks and sound alert tasks, but separately.
But the Ali Hope Foundation is providing a different perspective and the hope of independent travel and independent living for people who are deafblind. The isolation felt by many who are deafblind can be reduced by the dogs trained by Ali Hope, and my hope is that this model will also be embraced in the United States.
Good work, Tamara Meirovich!!