Guide dogs and power wheelchairs are not ordinarily thought of together. However, when a
power chair company pairs with a service animal organization, lives can be improved in some extraordinary ways.
In 2012, a visually-impaired employee of Hoveround Corporation entered a training program at Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. in Florida. Twenty-six days later, the employee returned to work -- successfully paired with a new guide dog.
But, that's just one part of this remarkable story.
Pairing Power Chair Owners with Mobility Guide Dogs
In 1999, Southeastern Guide Dogs, the only guide dog school in the southeastern United States, received a power chair from Hoveround Corporation. The chair became part of a training program to pair mobility service dogs with power wheelchair owners.
Cross-trained guide dogs capably assist mobility-impaired individuals in a number of ways.
Nurturing a solid bond between human and service animal is key to enabling the pair to safely and comfortably navigate around as a cohesive unit.
Susan Wilburn, Director of Admissions & Graduate Services at Southeastern, spoke about the power chair/service dog collaboration this way:
Ultimately, Hoveround and Southeastern Guide Dogs are in the business of providing the same thing - mobility, we just go about it in different manners. I can't tell you the amount of freedom my guide dog, Carson, gives me. I don't have to wait for anyone else, I can just grab Carson and his harness handle and out the door we go. I would imagine Hoveround's customers feel pretty much the same way. Giving someone else independence is a great gift.
Making a Difference, Improving Lives Everyday
To this day, Hoveround Corporation, a local sponsor of the Southeastern Guide Dogs 2013 Walk-a-Thon, remains committed to fulfilling the objective both organizations share:
To make a real difference in the lives of people with functional limitations by giving them the tools they need to experience the world with more freedom and more independence.
To learn more about how Hoveround power chairs extend mobility and improve the quality of life, contact a Mobility Specialist at 800-542-7236.
Guide Dogs Train on Equipment, Sarasota Herald Tribune; May 4 1999 by Patricia Ann McKanic (accessed 12/21/2012)
Hoveround Provides Mobility in an Unusual Manner, BradentonPatch.com; June 29 2012
by Jennifer Bement,Southeastern Guide Dogs (accessed 12/21/2012)
1 The effectiveness of pairing a mobility assistance dog with a power wheelchair user is dependent on various factors and, as such, may not be a viable option for every one in every situation. Please consult with a medical professional.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.