(CARLETON PLACE, ON – Nov.19, 2020) Travel restrictions, including border closures caused by COVID-19, have resulted in a 300 per cent increase in interest for CNIB Guide Dogs applications.
Guide dog handlers who have travelled to the United States in the past to obtain a guide dog are now looking for a "made in Canada" solution as soon as possible.
Jack McCormick turned to CNIB Guide Dogs after he and his guide dog were hit by a distracted driver in March 2020. As a result, his guide dog was traumatized and had to retire.
"Not having a guide dog has decreased my confidence. I feel less safe when I travel. I’m constantly worrying about bumping into something or harming myself," says McCormick, a 23-year-old Oakville, Ontario resident. "A guide dog can help me do so many things, like finding a seat on the bus. I have the flexibility and freedom to go to new places and do things that I can't do with a white cane."
The border closure means McCormick is unable to return to the school in the United States that provided him with a guide dog in 2014. Like so many other guide dog handlers in Canada, he is relying on CNIB Guide Dogs to match him with a guide dog to provide him with increased independence and connection with the world.
"A global pandemic that closes borders and reduces access to guide dogs isn’t something anyone planned for, but it is something we can overcome," said Diane Bergeron, president of CNIB Guide Dogs. "CNIB Guide Dogs is committed to addressing this challenge head-on, but we need your help."
CNIB Guide Dogs' Canine Campus opened in June, but physical distancing measures have meant group training is not an option. In order to keep staff and people who are training with their new guide dogs safe, CNIB Guide Dogs has adjusted its training program to accommodate one-on-one training – but that comes at a significant cost.
To meet the need for guide dogs in Canada, CNIB Guide Dogs must hire more guide dog trainers and guide dog mobility instructors. People with those specific skills are uncommon, so the organization is exploring apprentice opportunities.
"We believe every Canadian who needs a guide dog should have that opportunity – at no cost," says Bergeron. CNIB Guide Dogs raises, trains and matches dogs with people who are blind or partially sighted in communities from coast to coast to coast".
Funded solely by the generosity of Canadians, CNIB needs more donors than ever before to ensure everyone has access to a guide dog for mobility, safety and confidence.
"In this time of isolation and uncertainty, CNIB Guide Dogs is asking everyone who is able to help us meet the demand by making a contribution to cover the costs of raising, training and matching more guide dogs with Canadians who need them," said Bergeron.
If you think Jack McCormick and other Canadians who are blind or partially sighted deserve the increased independence that comes with a CNIB Guide Dog, please visit cnib.ca/urgent to see how you can help.