Guiding Eyes goes remote for training as pandemic continues

Remote training at Guiding Eyes has now begun as they adapt to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Remote training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind has now begun as they adapt to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which for the moment has eased somewhat for New York State and New York City, but is still present and concerning.

Since June 15, Guiding Eyes’ Guide Dog Mobility Instructors (located on the main campus in Yorktown Heights and the field training facility in Patterson) have adapted by adopting a staggered schedule, temperature checks, social distancing and wearing of masks as they prepare for the transition to remote training, which will last until further notice.

During typical times, about a dozen students from across the country are housed at the main campus for a three-week training course as they learn how to care for and work with their canine partner.

Guiding Eyes has been helping blind and visually-impaired people for over fifty years, and recently added New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning to their Board of Directors. For more information about the organization, see their website.

“The dogs are pre-selected & assigned based on multiple factors such as travel environments, walking pace, personality and lifestyle of each student,” said Ben Cawley, Director of Training for Guiding Eyes.

This careful consideration is based on the human’s level of sight and what their needs are, which is why finding the right guide dog partner is so critical.

“Home Training is different in that Guiding Eyes can customize training to the individual’s home routes, and as a result the training can be conducted in less time for the student than the 21-day residential class program that takes place in the dormitory,” Cawley said. “Home Training is typically 10 to 15 days in length depending on the student’s experience level.”

Next: COVID-sniffing dogs seeing success in training

Guiding Eyes customizes each dog’s training to the individual student’s needs, with two programs to further customize the experience. “The Specialized Training Program provides custom trained guide dogs for people who have vision loss as well as additional challenges such as hearing loss or balance issues, and a Running Guides Program serves Blind and Visually impaired athletes with guide dogs who are trained to lead their handlers on exercise runs,” Cawley said.

For more information about COVID-19, see the websites of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control or the department of health website for your state or province.

Load Comments