20 June 2011:The project website is already online and will progressively be updated with all relevant information & materials. Please visit www.egdms.eu
Why this project?
Research in the UK (Pey et al, 2006) has shown that blind people who are guide dog owners are twice as independently mobile as non-guide dog owners and report greater wellbeing; they are more likely to be employed and have greater social networking through active social lives. European citizens are being denied these benefits in some states as the provision of guide dogs has suffered from fragmentation of delivery, low investment in training and poor retention of guide dog instructors. Often, the service is limited by funding which leads to inconsistent criteria resulting in poorly trained and inadequate dogs. In some countries, the dog may be trained more as a guard than a guide while in others, a shortage of instructors means blind people cannot count on receiving a dog when they need and want one.
What is the project approach?
The project aims to address this situation by developing and rolling out a qualifying programme of training for instructors which addresses the welfare and training of the dog as well as the instruction of the client in its safe and effective use as an aid to independent mobility.
Who is involved?
The group of partners consists of Guide Dogs UK who have been providing a high quality service for more than 75 years, the European Guide Dog Federation (EGDF), a stakeholder group involved in promoting guide dog mobility throughout Europe, Lincoln University who assisted in the development of the course used by Guide Dogs UK and have considerable expertise in animal behavioural psychology, The European Standards Agency (CEN) and a group of five European guide dog schools in Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. These schools have been chosen to reflect the diversity of geographic and demographic factors found in Europe.
Together with the European Association for Service Providers for people with disabilities (EASPD), who will use their experience in project management to support the consortium, the project seeks to adapt an established solution to benefit those who need it most.
What will be done?
The project will demonstrate how the UK-based training can be effectively adapted to suit delivery in the partner countries and comply with local and European VET systems and qualification frameworks. This will enhance recruitment and retention of staff, increase service profile to funders and develop a European workforce providing a valuable service to blind people. An extension of this training could be applied to other assistance dog training such as hearing dogs, disability dogs, therapy pets etc.
Overall, by pooling the expertise of individual members the project will show how other schools can benefit from a common standards framework as operated in the UK leading to increased numbers of Instructors and greater acceptance of guide and assistance dogs across Europe. It will assist other work in Europe on the definition of assistance dogs and maximise opportunities for blind people in employment, travel and recreation as part of the Equal Treatment Directive relating to access to goods and services.