A conference at the CEU Cardenal Herrera University highlights the work undertaken by guide-dogs and the need for their wider acceptance
To raise awareness across society of the work guide-dogs do and of the importance of allowing them to enter public areas and services: these were the objectives of the conference which took place this weekend at the CEU Cardenal Herrera University, entitled “Rompiendo Barreras, Jornadas para la concienciación social del binomio perro-guía”. The conference was organized by Milagros Benito, a lecturer at the CEU UCH Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with the guide-dog users’ association in the Valencia region, Aspegui-CV, and the guide-dog charity, Fundación Once del Perro Guía(FOPG).
The conference, which was open to anyone who wished to attend, put the focus on the work these amazing animals do, acting as the “eyes” for many people with visual impairment and facilitating their mobility and independence. Those present were able to hear first-hand stories of the work guide-dogs do and witness a ceremony organized by ASPEGUI-CV to honour those dogs who retired this year.
Matilde Gómez, Director of FOPG, explained how her organization selects, cares for and trains these dogs and also what preparation and adaptation is involved before a trained dog with a prospective user together. She also spoke about the kind of people who can be a guide-dog user and how they can get a guide-dog, and also about the kind of relationship they typically have with the animals.
Pilar Carrasco, José Antonio Mira and Pedro Esquivá, accompanied by the their guide-dogs Olana, JD and Ulysses, respectively, talked to the attendees about what their day-to-day life is like with these fabulous animals, who provide “safety and independence” for many people with visual impairment.
The ASPEGUI-CV also paid tribute to three guide-dogs who retired over the past year, Ianna, Martina and Fonsi, highlighting their “hard work and great skill”.
“THANKS TO THEM, WE CAN MOVE ABOUT SAFELY TO WHEREVER WE WANT TO GO.”
Put yourself in my shoes
The FOPG also organized an exhibition for the conference attendees, demonstrating how guide-dogs support their users and how they help them to deal with the architectural barriers they come across every day. The exhibition also gave attendees the chance to experience what it is like to suffer from visual impairment and to be led by a guide-dog across an obstacle course set up in the gardens of the CEU UCH campus in Valencia.
Dr Milagros Benito, who heads the Sports Medicine Service at the CEU UCH’s Hospital Clínico Veterinario, also put on an extra activity at this conference: canine physiotherapy sessions for ASPEGUI-CV members. Dr Benito showed the attendees how to perform a range of recovery exercises and massages which can make a positive contribution to the dogs’ well-being.
In Milagros Benito’s words, “Guide-dogs help people with visual impairment to integrate into society. That is why our University is happy to pay tribute to these fabulous dogs, alongside Aspegui-CV. The aim of this conference is to draw attention to their great work and to raise awareness across society of the need to facilitate their access public spaces, in order to recognize the role they perform and the needs of those with visual impairment.”
The Rector, Rosa Visiedo, who opened the conference, accepting the gift of a guide-dog figure from ASPEGUI-CV.
ASPEGUI-CV was founded in 2012 in Castellón. This not-for-profit association for guide-dog users with reduced mobility seeks to publicize the work these animals perform and to raise awareness across society of the need to eliminate obstacles as far as is possible and promote mobility for all.