by Martha Michael
Special canines in training from local Guide Dogs of America shared their work with Metrolink riders last month. As part of October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, there was a puppy pop-up event at Union Station.
Guide dogs in training were brought to the depot to demonstrate the comprehensive skills these specialized animals learn before they begin formal training and are ultimately matched with a visually-impaired partner.
As an ADA-compliant commuter rail network, many persons with disabilities rely on Metrolink for transportation and connection to business and educational opportunities. National Disability Employment Awareness Month has been observed for more than 70 years and celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and promotes the value of a workforce that welcomes their skills and talents.
The mission of Guide Dogs of America, or GDA, is to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to live with increased independence, confidence and mobility by providing expertly matched guide dog partners. All GDA puppies begin their training in the homes of volunteer “puppy raisers” when they are 8 weeks old. The puppies return to the organization’s 7.5-acre Sylmar campus at 16-18 months old to learn formal guide dog skills. Upon successful completion of guide work training, the dogs are carefully matched with blind partners. Guide Dogs of America’s blind and visually impaired students stay at the Sylmar facility for 21 days of in-residence training when receiving their guide dogs. Dogs are provided at no cost to students. A guide dog and its blind partner may be together for as long as 10 years.
GDA receives no government funding and relies solely on donations and fundraising to provide guide dogs and instruction in their use free of charge. GDA was founded in 1948 as International Guiding Eyes by Joseph Jones, Sr. with the help of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Since its founding over 70 years ago, Guide Dogs of America has matched thousands of blind and visually impaired persons with guide dogs and continually seeks new and better ways to support the blind community.
Contact GDA by visiting GuideDogsofAmerica.org.