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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Oct 16, 2018

Show Summary:

(Full Transcript Below)

On White Cane Day, Blind Abilities is proud to bring you part 2 of Dr. Amy Kavanagh: Accepting the Cane and Guide Dog Possibilities. Amy has adjusted to her limited vision since she was born and when it came time for the White cane, she thought it was for other people to understand or recognize that she doesn’t see very well. Never thinking she needed a cane for her own good and never thought about using a Guide Dog.

 

This all changed when she made a couple of phone calls to GuideDogsUK – it was life changing!

Her new-found independence and her ability to gain so much information from the White Cane was revolutionary and put to ease some of the constant struggles that held her back from reaching her full potential.

 

Join Dr. Amy Kavanagh and Jeff Thompson as they explore Amy’s long road toward accepting the cane and her introduction to GuideDogsUK.

 

Stay tuned for the next episode in this 3-part series with Dr. Amy Kavanagh’s journey and her revolations when she accepted her blindness. Check out Part 1 - Just Ask Don’t Grab – Meet Dr. Amy Kavanagh, Blogger, Activist, and Volunteer with a Message - #JustAskDontGrab

Contacts:

If you want to learn more about GuideDogsUK, check out the web site at http://www.guidedogsuk.co.uk

 

You can follow Amy on Twitter @BlondeHistorianand follow her blog, Cane Adventureson the web.

 

A very big Thank You to Chee Chaufor your beautiful music!

 

Thanks for listening!

You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store

 

Full Transcript:

 

Amy Kavanaugh:
Somebody said to me, "Oh Guide Dogs, they do the long cane training, why don't you contact them?" So I was like well, you know, whatever I'll try, I guess. And I sent off an email and I had a phone conversation that frankly changed my life.

Jeff Thompson:
Dr. Amy Kavanagh.

Amy Kavanaugh:
It's like I've now got this new sense that is tactile and teaches me about the world, that I just realized how much information I was missing out on.

Jeff Thompson:
Accepting the cane, and the possibilities, at Guide Dogs UK.

Amy Kavanaugh:
I used to, you know, feel my way with my feet doing like a little penguin shuffle everywhere. I'm opening up and doing proper steps now that I have a cane.

Jeff Thompson:
From realizing that the cane was just not a symbol for others, but a tool to navigate the world around her.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yes, I'm on a waiting list. So you know, I'm good friends with my cane. I'm always going to be super big pals with my white cane. Muddling along for now, I'm getting my independence back, that's the main thing. I can wait, it's okay. I don't mind.

Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to Blind Abilities. I'm Jeff Thompson. In part-two of this three-part series with Dr. Amy Kavanagh, Amy talks about her discovery of the white cane and her introduction to Guide Dogs UK. Be sure to check out the first part of this three-part series titled "Just Ask, Don't Grab" and stay tuned for the third part of this series with Dr. Amy Kavanagh, where Amy takes a look at her journey and the revelations she's found once she accepted her blindness.

Jeff Thompson:
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities, and download the free Blind Abilities app from the app store and the Google play store, and check out the Blind Abilities skill on your Amazon device by saying, "Enable Blind Abilities."

Jeff Thompson:
So without further ado, here's Dr. Amy Kavanagh. We hope you enjoy.

Amy Kavanaugh:
It's so silly, I get like really emotional.

Jeff Thompson:
And as we left off from part one.

Jeff Thompson:
Creating hash tags is not your only occupation!

Amy Kavanaugh:
No! Well it feels like full-time at the moment.

Jeff Thompson:
Oh yeah, it's great. And you have a blog, and I saw your Cane Adventures blog, which is a great blog I love your reading, and I got hooked up on this one about guide dogs. Can you explain about the guide dog situation that you're... You're in wait, aren't you?

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yes, I'm on a waiting list. So, Cane Adventures is a blog, and a recent post that I did, which is really important to me actually to get that message out there, is all about my experience with Guide Dogs UK.

Amy Kavanaugh:
So Guide Dogs in the UK is the equivalent of the seeing eye dogs in the States. And as far as I understand, it's a slightly different setup in that I believe in the States there are lots of different schools where you can get different types of seeing eye dog or assistance dog. In the UK, it's mainly this one big charity for visually impaired people. Guide Dogs are the providers of seeing eye dogs for the blind. That's our main one. I think there's a few others, people who have perhaps dual sensory loss, and there are definitely growing charities for autism assistance dogs, dogs for deaf people, medical alert dogs. America is definitely I think leading the way in assistance dogs, and the UK is playing catch up a bit.

Amy Kavanaugh:
But we do have a good solid old, since World War two, institution in Guide Dogs. It is very well known to all British people and it kinds of helps a bit. I think I've spoken to a few friends online that have seeing eye dogs and the different schools mean that sometimes harnesses are different, the rules are different in different states about access and stuff. Whereas in the UK it's a little bit more kind of universal, there is one look of the harness and types of dogs that Guide Dogs use. So it's kind of very consistent brand.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Anyway so my experience with, again, through social media I desperately wanted training with the long cane because I knew that it was something that would help me. And mainly I thought it would help me by being a symbol, being a symbol of my visual impairment. I commute through central London, it's extremely busy, it's a city of like 8 million plus people. I go in and out of one of the busiest stations in the city, 200,000 people a day use the station that I use. It feels like they all use them at the time that I'm using it. And I thought well I'll get this white cane, I guess I'm kind of a blind person, I'll use this white cane thing. And I thought it was just going to be for a symbol of showing people that I'm disabled, but now I know it's much more.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Anyway, I was trying to find out how I could access the training, and in the UK, again, this training is normally provided through your local social services. Based on where you live, your council, or kind of your local municipal area will have a team of social workers who provide training and assistance as part of our local government. Unfortunately our government currently has slashed the budgets to these social workers, and they are massively overwhelmed, underfunded, and did not have the resource to train me appropriately. I really struggled to access it.

Amy Kavanaugh:
So as many people are unfortunately having to do in the UK, I turned to a charitable organization for support, and somebody said to me, "Oh Guide Dogs, they do the long cane training, why don't you contact them?" So I was like well, you know, whatever. I can try, I guess. And I sent off an email and I had a phone conversation that frankly changed my life.

Jeff Thompson:
Really?

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah. I had a lady phone up and say to me "I'm calling from Guide Dogs; can you tell me a bit about yourself?" And this was like a pretty low point in my life and it just spilled out of me. I think, much like you Jeff, I ranted on the phone to her about everything I was struggling with and was finally kind of honest with myself about what I was finding hard as well. And she just listened, she just listened, and she didn't do what so many do many people do with the kind of platitudes of, "Oh well you'll be fine," blah blah blah "Oh I'm sure you'll be alright." She just listened and she said "You're struggling. You are struggling. You need some help." And for someone to say that to me, to recognize it, was so powerful. I am a crier and I cried on the phone at this complete stranger, and I even get wobbly talking about it now, if I'm honest.

Jeff Thompson:
Well struggling is a hidden emotion kind of. Like no one sees it, you're just scared to make moves, kind of.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yes, and you feel it very strongly but it's often inside, right. It's in your head.

Jeff Thompson:
Yeah, indecisiveness and yeah.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And for someone to A, be able to recognize it just over the phone, to hear someone and to go, "I know what this person's going through. I know what that is." To see it, and to hear it, and to say, "We can help you." It was incredible. It's just so silly, I get like really emotional.

Jeff Thompson:
I'm going there with you, I'm going there with you, I know what it's like.

Jeff Thompson:
You mentioned something earlier, it was ... As my mind goes blank as I was just drifting off into that thought ... When you said you were going to get the cane for a symbol, I use the scarlet letter B, like I'm blind or the cane tells everybody, "Hey, hey I'm blind. I'm visually impaired, look out." So that's going to help you, but did you accept it that you needed the cane?

Amy Kavanaugh:
I mean, not for 28 years, no.

Jeff Thompson:
Just 28.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Just 28, yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
It's great that, it's kind of ... I'll use the word amazing myself, or ironic would be the better word ... that you called Guide Dogs UK, and they got you to get mobility training with the cane.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah.

Jeff Thompson:
Was that like, whoa, wait a second. Was that a moment?

Amy Kavanaugh:
Oh, for sure. So I made that phone call, that first phone call, and had that lovely conversation where, as I've done on this call, I cried. And they said, "Oh we'll have someone come to your house and see you." And this was still ... I did have my job by that point because I was still ... The first few months of my job I had learned my way, and luckily where I work is very close to my first university and also to the big British library where I used to do all my research.

Amy Kavanaugh:
So I was like right, I've got that down, I can do that, that's okay. And I knew my sight was getting worse, and I did have that confirmed recently that my uncorrected vision is worse, down to the sort of 6/6 state which in the UK is what you would consider registered blind. But we did, annoyingly but also sensibly, your registration is based on your corrected vision. They take it from my glasses even though they become redundant sometimes because of stuff.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Anyway getting besides the point, at that point I went to work, I came home from work, I didn't leave the house without my partner, that was it. Like the only thing I was doing on my own, and mostly ending up in tears and then kind of hiding it a bit at work, was my commute to work. That was the only journey I did on my own and that was, I thought I was ... Two months in I thought, "I'm going to have to quit. I'm going to have to ... I can't do this. I can't do this." I couldn't even go to the local shop by myself anymore and just, I would come home from having traveled on the underground and just cry, and cry because I'd been frightened and pushed by people.

Amy Kavanaugh:
London traveling, as you may have experienced if you've been to London, we're not the most patient and polite of travelers. And we push, and we pull, and we get a bit grumpy in the underground stations. And with no visible indication I had a disability, when I was bumping into people, or classically you know the train spaces are very small? Because the tunnels were made for Victorians, and the main line I use is one of the really old ones, so the trains are super small and they get very, very crowded and you are like face to armpit with people and there's no air conditioning.

Jeff Thompson:
Thanks for that imagery of face to armpit.

Amy Kavanaugh:
It is! You are, I'm like 5' 2" so I am always face to armpit with someone.

Amy Kavanaugh:
When people move in busy environments, even though I've got this residual vision it just blurs to me because it's just such, so dense and so much information my brain can't process it. So people would move, and move down the carriage, and I just wouldn't see that there was a space there. And people would push me and get really grumpy and like, "Oh come on move, move, move." And I just would cry when I got home because I used to think "I can't see, people get so angry with me because I can't see that they've moved." And so when I had this first meeting with a mobility officer, I'd had to go part-time at work because I just wasn't managing the journey, it was too much. My anxiety was just going through the ceiling, I was having panic attacks on the trains and having to get off [inaudible 00:11:12].

Amy Kavanaugh:
And I had a symbol cane in the UK, so it's like a little short one, I think you call it an ID cane sometimes. So you don't actually use it for mobility, you just kind of hold it. I do think they're kind of pointless, I know that's slightly controversial but people don't really get what it is and so they still don't really react properly because it's like, "Why has that lady got like an orchestral baton that's white?" So I wanted to use a longer cane because I knew people would understand what that was.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And Tommy, my mobility officer, he came, and he did a whole great big like three-hour chat with me at home, and I sobbed all over him, like honestly like a big ugly crying, because he was so nice. And again, much as I've rambled on for you, he asked me like, "Oh you know, what are you finding hard?" and it just spilled out of me for like and hour I just talked at him, I was just like, "Oh my .... You know ... This is, I can't go to the shops, I can't ... I'm so frightened, I keep falling over, I can't manage, I can't do this, I don't know what to do, I can't have my job ..." And just he said at the end of this tirade that I'd put in his direction, "That sounds hard." And it's just three ... See here I go again. Just three words but they made such a different because again, it was somebody listening, and somebody seeing me struggle, and somebody hearing me say, "I can't do this."

Jeff Thompson:
And both times you communicated with Guide Dogs UK, they listened.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah, and it was radical because I'd had, like I said, I had that whole experience of asking for help previously and people saying, "No."

Amy Kavanaugh:
At university, we have a scheme in the UK where you can get a travel pass that is free if you're disabled and you can use trains and buses and things for free at certain times of day, and I applied for that like four times and they kept rejecting me. And I think we all, as disabled people, experience that bureaucracy where they say, "You're not enough, you're not disabled enough. You don't deserve the parking permit. You don't deserve the extra time in exams. You're disabled, but you're not disabled enough for us to help you." And it was the first time really in my life someone had said, "We'll help you. You don't have to prove yourself to us. You don't have to fill out forms. You don't have to do a test. We believe you, and we're listening to you."

Jeff Thompson:
Can you explain, calling them with the expectation of getting a guide dog but now they're going to hand you a cane. A lot of people don't understand that having a guide dog, you still need good mobility skills.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Well I didn't think I'd be allowed the dog, and this is why I'd never, ever contacted them as an organization because I thought, "Well they won't give me a dog, that's only for the totally blind people." So I did call them asking for help with the cane and they said, "Yeah, no we can do that, that's no problem." So I was just so grateful for that, totally. But then as the application process went through, where we were talking and that first conversation in person with this mobility office, where he was talking about, "Yeah, a cane will help with this stuff." He said, you know "What about the dog though?" And I said, "Well I can't have a ... I can't have a dog, I'm not allowed a dog." He was like "Why, why would you not be ... You're registered visually impaired." And I said, "But I can ... I can see your face, I can see your glasses, and your ... I'm not allowed a dog." And he said, "Well, let's just see how we get on with that."

Amy Kavanaugh:
And so he ordered me a cane, started teaching me how to use it, and that ... Oh my ... It's so hard to describe to people. I, like I say, I thought it was just going to be a stick I was waving that meant people could see me, right? That's all I thought it was for. It is like having another sense. It's like I've now got this new sense that is tactile and teaches me about the world, that I just realized how much information I was missing out on. And it's almost like it helps me see the world better.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And it's so hard to explain that to people who don't use a cane, but every little vibration, every little movement, every tap, it gives you something. It gives you that information and especially I think as well for me, where I do have my residual vision. That blurry path in front of me, I suddenly know where the crack in the pavement is. And I suddenly know where the curb is and it's like, it's like someone's turned up the volume on my life, using a cane. And I get so much balance from it, I know you don't use it to prop yourself up, but simply the information that it gives me enables me to be more balanced.

Amy Kavanaugh:
It's just so revolutionary that I wished I'd been using it for ten years, so yeah, I'm glad I am using it now. My cane anniversary was last Monday so, it's a year and week old.

Jeff Thompson:
Well congratulations on that, that's a bit of freedom right there.

Jeff Thompson:
Now with your experience with the guide dog, getting some introduction to it, that might be a whole nother revelation.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Well yeah, I've done a little bit of working with dogs. So after we started the whole process with the cane training, and the mobility training, and all of that stuff, my mobility officer Tommy gradually introduced this concept of applying for the dog. And he said, "Why don't we just do it. why don't we just go through it, and then we can see where we go from there."

Amy Kavanaugh:
So we filled out the paperwork, it was similar to the conversations we already had about my mobility and what I was finding hard, and what I would like to achieve, and what the cane was helping me with. He said, "I'll just put you through to the ... We'll just do the next stage." He's very clever, he's very good, he's like, "Oh we'll just do the next bit." And that involved an assessment where one of the team who works with the dogs came and assessed my mobility. And he had a training handle, that was like the harness that the dog wears, that he was kind of holding one end, and I was holding the other end. And he said, "Well, let's just see how this feels. Let's walk along the street and see how it feels to be guided by this handle." And so we did that, my partner was with us saying you know the places that we could walk and try it. We got a lot of funny looks you know, "What's that poor blind lady doing? Does she think there's a dog in that harness? It's just a man on the other end. They've tricked that poor blind woman."

Jeff Thompson:
There's a shortage on dogs.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah. It's like that joke lead that has like the stiff collar at the end? It was like that. Oh look at the invisible dog. So I was like, "Oh that feels different." And there was one, an instance where I was like, "I don't know about this, I don't think this going to work." And then we were walking back along the street back towards my house, and as I've said before, because of my ocular albinism I'm very sensitive to light. And it was summertime of time of year, I think it was kind of the autumn, when the sun in the UK is very low in the sky. Well you know on a nice sunny day everyone else is loving it in the autumn, but that sunlight is really low in the sky and straight into my eyes. And I can't see anything even with my sunglasses on, it hurts too much, or it's just too overwhelming, I've got no vision at all.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And then the trainer just goes, "Well, close your eyes. Just close your eyes." And I was like, "Well I do that when I'm traveling in the car, or if I'm sat somewhere and it's too bright." He said, "Just close your eyes and follow the handle." And that was revolutionary, you know? That I could rest my eyes, that I could travel with my eyes close, like a blind person. And I knew where I was going, I followed this handle and the handle moved when I needed to step to the left, or to the right, or up and down a path.

Jeff Thompson:
Did you get to the point where you could actually have a, not a conversation in your head, but be thinking like, "Oh today I have to do ..." You know like everyday people do as they're walking along, they're kind of thinking about their daily schedule. Just like when you started using the cane, you get to a point where, you're just doing normal walking, thinking stuff. Like planning your day, or thinking, "Oh did I leave the coffee pot on." Or ... But before you have those skills, that technique, or that freedom, you're just worried about the next step.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Oh for sure. And that used to, like I say, my slightly tragic internal monologue before was constantly like, "Can I remember the way? Where is it? Where is it? Where do I go? Is it this way? Is it that way? Oh no. Oh am I going to bump in to someone? Oh what's going to ... Where are they? What's ... Oh, is that moving? Is that car coming?" And now that voice, because I have those cane skills, it's still there sometimes especially if I'm in a new place, or if it's super busy. But now there are places I just do it like I'm on auto-pilot. And it's made me realize that probably most people walk around, and they don't have a constant internal monologue of, "Am I going to fall over? Am I going to fall over? Am I going to fall over?" Because that's just, that was all I was thinking, or "Am I going to bump into that person? Am I going to fall down these steps?

Amy Kavanaugh:
And now, I can walk through one of the busiest train stations in London and I'm thinking, "Oh yes, I think I might watch that on telly tonight." And you know, "Oh yeah, I'm already on the escalator that's fine. Okay I'm just going to walk ..." You know?

Jeff Thompson:
That in confidence or that fear just keeps, it's consuming.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Oh and it does consume you, and it's exhausting, it's exhausting constantly thinking, and planning, and worrying. So tiring.

Jeff Thompson:
And then someone grabs you.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And then someone grabs you, yeah.

Amy Kavanaugh:
But then after I had the invisible dog, and talked a bit more about the practicalities of having a dog ... Now I am a huge dog lover and when I did have ... Was working from home a lot with my PhD I used to volunteer at an animal shelter in London which is very old, very well-known animal charity called Battersea Dogs' Home, it will take on the most problem cases. And I used to go and volunteer, and again it was one of those times where I'd sort of said to them, "Oh I can't see very well. Oh maybe I shouldn't do too many walks with the dogs." And they were very good about it, and they didn't really question it too much. And they did all their risk assessments and everything and they said, "Okay well what you could be good at doing is the anxious dogs, who haven't been around people, they just need people to sit quietly with them and pet them, could you help us do that?" And I was like, "Could I help you do!? Yes I can do that."

Amy Kavanaugh:
I then fostered some of these very, very anxious dogs who just needed company. Older dogs, sick dogs who didn't need a lot of walking and exercise but just needed to be with someone. And they would sit in my office and I would pretend I was managing to do my PhD work and just pat them and make them feel better. So I did that for a couple of weeks at a time. And so I have had dogs, and problem dogs who were sick everywhere, and poop everywhere, so that I was used to. That part of it didn't bother me or my partner, we're dog people.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And I think a lot of that initial process is ... Lots of visually impaired and blind people, they have never had a dog in the house, they've got to get over the whole picking up the poo thing. So that for me was not a barrier at all, and if anything it was something, I was super conscious of because I was like, "Do you just want a dog, Amy? Is this ... Do you ... Because you would like a dog, this is not the solution for you just getting a dog. There are lots of dogs you could adopt, this needs to be the right reason. It's a mobility aid, it's not a pet dog."

Amy Kavanaugh:
So as part of that process, Guide Dogs gave me the opportunity to go to the training school and do a residential visit with them where they put a group of us up in a hotel and we did training and we worked with several different dogs in training.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And we had a dog stay overnight in our room with us, and we got to hang out with the dogs, and we groomed them, and we got a sense of how it would feel to be guided by a dog, to work with the dog, and how that is very different from the cane. And I absolutely loved it because that internal monologue that we're talking about, of that fear and that anxiety, that I still do have with my cane. Because the cane is great at finding objects that you have to work your way around, and that takes a lot of brain power, lot of thinking, lot of skills, lot of concentration. Whereas the dog just walks you right around that object. Yes you have to focus on your working relationship with the dog, on the commands, on understanding how the dog works, on following the rules of the way that the dog knows how to guide you, and it changes your mobility quite significantly. But that stress of, "Oh, what if I bumped into here? What's this? Okay, it's a street sign. Okay I can walk around this. Is it? Oh it's some construction work."

Jeff Thompson:
"Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me."

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah. You go faster, it's smoother, and that internal monologue can focus a little bit more on what you want to eat, when you're going shopping, you know all this stuff that everyone else is thinking about, and I loved it.

Amy Kavanaugh:
It was a great process, the best thing about Guide Dogs is that they are really invested in you making the right decision for you. And it's not like ... You don't have to pass some test, and I think it has been like that in the past. I think they did used to be a little bit more like, "Look at this chart. Cover your left eye, cover your right eye." But I think they realized that it meant it was denying a lot of people like me a service that would make a big different to their lives. And the modern version of that is about being independent, reclaiming your confidence, getting out there, being able to do things just like everyone else can.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And so I sat down at the end of the weekend and I talked to all the different trainers and like the support team and they said, "You're going to go away and think about it, we won't accept and answer from you right now because that's not appropriate." So I went away, three days later I really thought about it, you know a couple of sleepless night, "Is this the right thing for me? I can't fold up the dog and put it away in my handbag. I can't stay out all night partying with the dog. I might get access refusals, which will be a new concept, you know, taxis will not take the dog, restaurants will not let me in, people will try to distract the dog." No one is trying to pet my cane, although they do like to grab it occasionally.

Amy Kavanaugh:
So I had to take on that whole decision, and they really support you through this, but they say it has to be the right decision for you. And it has to be the right decision for us as the people who are going to give you this working animal. To know that it's going to benefit you, that you're going to be committed to it, and that you're going to follow the rules, understand them, and get the best out of this working relationship. So yeah, I made that phone call at the beginning of January, and I said, "Yes, I think I would like to go on the list, what do you think?" And they said, "Yes, we think that's a good decision."

Jeff Thompson:
And you'll get that cold nose once in a while.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah, don't mind that so much. I think it might be a very spoiled dog.

Jeff Thompson:
That's great that you have experience with a dog because my wife has a dog, she takes care of the dog, maintains the dog, sees that it's fit, does regular checkups, she's an animal type of person so it's a great fit for her. And always complained about how the cane gets tangled up with people near the bus stop and all the shrapnel that you can find on the sidewalks and stuff. I'm not knocking it, but for her it was just a great transition for her and she really likes that.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Yeah and I think it does suit some people and it doesn't suit others, and that's fine. I kind of met people who were like, "Yeah I had a guide dog for a while, it didn't really work for me. I prefer the cane." People prefer the flexibility of the cane, it does give you that ability to decide that you just want to stay out or go wherever. Having a dog can reduce your access in some ways, but it really opens it up in others.

Amy Kavanaugh:
You can get a dog to do an unfamiliar route with you, you know your Google Map's in your ears, the dog will just take you from curb to curb, and you will be safe. And I rarely have the energy, and concentration, and skill to be able to do that with the cane. You're stopping every three meters to look at your phone, am I in the right place, listening to the instruction again, "Okay right, travel a bit further, bump into someone, avoid something, Oh I forgot ... " You know, whereas that dog is going to take you that smooth part of that journey, and then you can focus on your direction, asking for any assistance. For me it feels like it's going to fit and suit me that way, and also, I'm very keen to be an advocate for them as well because they have supported me so much.

Jeff Thompson:
I have to toot their horn too, Guide Dogs UK. I met John Greedy when I was down in Teignmouth. A friend of mine Jo Fishwick, she has a charity there that's called VI Talk. And they actually at Teignmouth, there's a Cliffden Hotel there that they bring people there, so they can do that one week of interaction with the dog. It's a two-week program, they actually interact, and they actually release the dog to the owner, operator I guess, guide dog user.

Jeff Thompson:
So it was neat to be there at the same time that they were doing that, and I had an interview with them and I put it on the Blind Abilities podcast, and he's been doing it for 21 years and it was just so ... It was just so nice to talk to him and hear about how he goes about it, his interaction with the dog. And I don't know how many dogs he's done but over 21 years, he gets these dogs and hands them off to people, but he said, "Are they active people? Do they have low vision? Totally blind? Do they live in this type of environment?" So the criteria that they fit and match these dogs with is extensive in the sense that they're giving the right dog for the right purpose.

Amy Kavanaugh:
Absolutely, and that is why the wait is quite long because for me, I need a specific set of requirements. I am a short woman, so I don't need a great big dog with a great big long stride that's going to be dragging me along too fast. I currently do not walk very fast because I used to feel my way with my feet doing like a little penguin shuffle everywhere. I'm finally opening up and doing proper steps now that I have a cane, but I'm still pretty slow because I'm just so used to walking slowly because I thought, "Well if I'm moving super slow, I'm not going to injure myself as badly." And now that's speeding up a bit so they need to match me with a dog that isn't going to race me down the street, it's got to be a dog that will be able to handle one of the busiest cities in the world, that's going to get me on that public transport, not be phased by huge crowds of people, have the enthusiasm and determination to work in those busy spaces, a real problem solving dog.

Amy Kavanaugh:
I have heard they tend to be the naughtier dogs, the London dogs, because they need that kind of, spirit cheekiness to have that confidence to go into those busy environments. So they can misbehave a bit so you kind of have to keep an eye on that really, as best you can. It's going to be an interesting dog, I'm looking forward to meeting it.

Amy Kavanaugh:
And actually I have to take things into account, like I said, I'm starting this new job and I was doing some route practices for this new job. It's full-time, going back to full-time work which is a big step for me, and I will have a lot of external meetings. I might have meetings in parliament with the government in Westminster, so I was learning my way to get there from work recently on Wednesday. And the dog is going to have to deal with all the tourists in those busy central London areas, and the fact that I've had this slight life change, unfortunately there might have been a dog in the works that was suitable for how my life was nine months ago, now my life has changed a little bit. There'll be a bit more work for this dog, so that might make it a bit longer I don't know. But it's got to be right, because if it's not right it's not going to help me in the way that I need it to.

Amy Kavanaugh:
So I'm good friends with my cane, I'm always going to be super big pals with my white cane, muddling along for now. I'm getting my independence back, that's the main thing. I can wait. It's okay, I don't mind.

Jeff Thompson:
Such a great time talking to Dr. Amy Kavanagh and stay tuned for part three as Amy talks about her journey through blindness and the revelations she discovered when she was ready to accept her blindness. And a big thank you goes out to Chee Chau you can follow Chee Chau on Twitter @LCheeChau And as always, we want to thank you for listening, we hope you enjoyed. And until next time, bye-bye.

[Music] [Transition noise]

When we share

-What we see

-Through each other’s eyes…

[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]

…We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.

Jeff Thompson:

For more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com on Twitter @BlindAbilities, download our app from the App Store. Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at info@blindabilities.com. Thanks for listening.