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more thoughts posted to the ACB-L list

I've been comparing some notes with another dog user who was in Louisville, and we have made some potentially interesting observations. I'm sharing them here because I'm interested in dialoguing about whether there might be ways to create a more workable system for everyone in the future. From an observational perspective, I find this rather fascinating. I may eventually be able to bring in another perspective if anyone is interested, as I have potential input from a Louisville resident who met both of us during the week after years of online correspondence and may be able to provide some interesting observations from the perspective of the kind of person who tends to sometimes serve as a volunteer (may have never encountered blind people in the past but be interested in what's going on and want to help out and learn).

A little background on the two of us for reference is important for this post. I have been working dogs for 17 years and have good orientation skills. My current dog has been home for a year and is somewhat stress-prone. Her stress-prone behaviors sometimes require me to stop and do things to help her reorient (e.g. put her at sit and then give her a very direct commaned). I am a somewhat slow walker due to arthritis which is somewhat poorly controlled.

The other person has been working dogs for five years and has less developed orientation skills due to an additional disability. Her current dog is very confident and she is quite a fast walker. People often commented that she appeared to know where she was going.

I share these details because it seems that the impact of the fast walk vs. the slow walk is that volunteers gravitate toward the person who appears to need help: the slow walker. However, the slow walker may not walk slowly out of a need for help. Our experiences were that I had too many volunteers approaching me and she had not enough. Obviously, for the fast walker, the simple solution would be to slow down or even stop when disoriented.

Stopping, however, poses another dilemma. She noted that when she stopped and moved off to the side so that people could continue past her, volunteers did not approach her. When she stopped and stood in the middle of the hall, they did approach her. So being polite while trying to get the help she needed seemed to be a bit counterproductive for her.

What I'd like to explore is the question of whether there is a way that volunteers could be sought easily or the need for help could be indicated so that those who needed it could be assured of getting it and those who didn't need it didn't end up feeling that we were overloaded with it. I was approached five times within a three minute period on one day. Everyone was very kind, but it was very disorienting to have to keep stopping and explaining that I really was fine.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2008 07:38 pm (UTC)
I can see your point about this, my dog has strong confidence, but soetimes, require *some* encouragement to keep going. I can walk fast, but with my shoulder/back, there are days, my dog will sense the requirement to "pace" the pull, and it may look like we are going at a snail's pace! I have strong orientation, somewhat, as well. I think it is poor judgement on the vlunteers part to assimilate that fast walkers=great, confident travelers, and slow walkers=poor orientation. It is perfectly alright, in my opinion, to ask politely if we need help, no matter what speed / pace we walk! I rather they ask me, then to assume, and I will usually reply in polite, "no thanks.", but if the circumstance arises, where I need the assistance, I will accept... it is all dependable on where I need it, such as large gatherings, where orientation auditorally is much more difficult!

My two cents worth.
Jul. 13th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
I used to be a very fast walker, but over time and gaining and losing a considerable amount of weight, I am now a fairly slow walker. I can understand that volunteers think that fast walkers know where they are going, but I can remember sometimes when I was a faster walker that I needed assistance and got none and that is horribly frustrating. It is nice to be asked, but can understand that it can be horribly annoying too. I have neurapathy in my feet and have some balance issues, so sometimes I need to stop as well.
Jul. 13th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
Hmm, interesting point! I wonder if there is a way that one volunteer could stay at a home base, for lack of better words, and if he or she could have 2-way radios with the other volunteers. So they could continue to walk around, as they do now, but the person at the command post could have a phone number that we convention goers could call, give our location and let them know we need assistance and the nearest volunteer could be dispatched to our area. Just a thought because while for the most part I had the parts of the hotel I needed down to an almost science there were times when I found myself lost and really wished there was a way I could find a volunteer. Like you I seemed to find them when I didn't need them and they were MIA when I did.
Jul. 14th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
Perhaps, a letter detailing this concern, in much the same way you outlined it in your post, might be sent along with a request that Volunteers be asked, during their orientation, to approach people who are stopped along the sides of the hallways, just to check if they need assistance.
When I worked my fast-paced, bouncing dog, I can remember several friends saying, "I waved at you on campus the other day, but by the time I realized it was you, you were gone, so I couldn't yell."
Because a person may be a "fast" walker, the volunteer may not have time to register a "lost" look on the person's face.
I think another point to ponder, too, is what expression we wear while walking. I know it shouldn't matter, but I think sometimes, a confident look may make a volunteer think we're calm, cool, and collected (and know exactly where we're going, how to get there, and where the nearest comfy chair is in the meeting, too). I wonder, sometimes, if the slower walkers get more notice because maybe in concentrating on following the dog, paying attention to surroundings, and possibly dealing with physical issues (such as pain, or allergies, whatever), the face becomes an open book to a troubled look, and the volunteer is just trying to be friendly.
I hope that last part made sense. I think I'm rambling a little much here, but like Jen said, I'd rather be asked if I needed help than not, as long as the person asking doesn't get upset if I decline the offer.
Jul. 14th, 2008 09:38 am (UTC)
I think you are on to something about the facial expression thing. I didn't mind being asked if I needed help until it became a repeated experience that added to the chaos that was contributing to my inability to handle my dog's stress. I got into the habit of saying, "I'm fine. I'm working on something with my dog," and that seemed to help. But it really required a lot of concentration to not turn my body to talk to the volunteer because in doing that I would have lost my orientation and caused yet more stress for Loretta.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah Blake LaRose
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