By Ted Ross
A fellow and his dog dropped by the Beacon office the other day. Trevor is vision impaired; Woodie, a black lab, is his service dog. Trevor worked for many years as a printing pressman for Pacific Press, on the mainland, for the Toronto Star in central Canada, and finally at the Times-Colonist in Victoria.
Trevor had suffered from juvenile diabetes. That disease persisted to take his vision several years ago. He now has no useful vision. His vision impairment is total.
Woodie and Trevor recently moved to a condo on Menzies Street, here in James Bay. They have come to know the routes they want to travel as they make their way around Five-Corners and the James Bay Centre area. They are well-practiced at this, with Woodie in his harness showing he is a service dog. The harness also has a handle for Trevor to hold.
"We go up the road," says Trevor, "until we near the curb. Then we pause while I locate the curb. Then I listen for cars and anything else I should know before we proceed. When I am content to do so, I tell Woodie to go left, right, or straight ahead, and then we proceed, with Woodie guiding me in the direction I requested."
Five Corners, with its several intersections, is particularly challenging, but the two have mastered it. They always take their time to get it right for all the crossings. They know how to do it.
And here is the problem which brought Trevor and Woodie to the Beacon office. "When I pause at crossings," says Trevor, "people think I need help, that I'm somehow, stuck. Of course I'm not; I'm just listening and directing Woodie. When they try to help they only interfere with my instructions to my dog. An otherwise smooth trip is rattled by this unneeded help."
Trevor goes on to say, "A second problem occurring at these crossing moments is when walkers, distracted by cell phones and other electronic devices, go right into the area I'm analyzing before I cross, without noticing me. This also upsets my directions to Woodie."
Trevor is very happy to be a James Bay resident. He has asked that the Beacon publicize the best way to deal with visually impaired people with a service dog encountered at pedestrian crossings. Please remember:
* They have stopped to listen and instruct their dog. Help is not required.
* Pay attention at crossings and don't walk in front of the visually impaired person and service dog. They need their space.