90 years ago, the lives of people with sight loss was very different. Support was sometimes non existent or at the very best limited. Children’s futures were restricted by what society thought a child or young person was capable of in relation to their sight. Society in general was more discriminative than inclusive as education around sight loss was still very patchy. In short, life plateaued for the majority of people with sight loss at a certain age and stage in life as potential remained a secret treasure that was rarely found. 90 years ago, life was very different for us all but thanks to many movements to support people with sight loss, positive changes were essential in helping us live the enhanced lives we do today.
Arguably, Louis Braille started the ball rolling in 1824 as he developed Braille as a way to help himself enter into the sighted world of reading and communicating which has gone on to help an enormous amount of people with sight loss have equal access to the written word. The Blind Person’s Act in 1920 deepened the rights and welfare of people with sight loss to be protected which was a huge step forward. It was the introduction of Guide Dogs in October 1931 however that really created change in the lives of individuals with sight loss the most.
Since the first partnership 90 years ago between the canine and human world, things have developed massively. 90 years on, the charity is now also helping children with sight loss as well as adults and does more than just train dogs for partnership. They educate, raise public awareness about sight loss, campaign and do so much more to help the lives of people with sight loss become enriched and limit free. The Guide Dogs charity allows hope where there once was none and help bridge the gap between the sighted and sight loss world which is huge. They help nurture and train these beautiful dogs that become our true best friends.
Life before Munch was tough. Living 39 years of my life with secret sight loss I learnt ways of keeping it hidden from people but it took a lot of time and energy. When you have never seen a face , just a blur and have never seen what is across the room from you, that is just life. How can you miss a picture on a wall that you do not know is there? When that life became a little dangerous from all the falls, breaks, dislocations and many other injuries, it was time to admit I needed help. The help that I got was Minster who affectionately became known as Munch.
It has been nearly five years since I was partnered up with my hairy soul mate Minster Munch and there has never been a dull moment. Munch has been more than just practical help, he has become my matching odd sock. The Drama King that he is, has almost made me forget I have sight loss as that part of me now has a bouncer. I can stand down from my past relentless reliance on memory that got me from a to b as I remembered each route in my head with a combination of muscle memory, counting and taking information from overloaded senses. He does all that now and more. Admittedly, on a rare occasion a passing squirrel may make his attention go elsewhere for a nanosecond but in general, he is now my lighthouse keeper to steer me away from danger.
Munch is my hairy little (ok more Shetland Pony sized ) soul mate who just happens to be a Guide Dog on the side. He deserves the best in life as he has changed my life and the life of my family forever. Guide Dogs are never just dogs, they are the special beings that complete us. Training more Minster Munch like heroes is costly and that is why around the country, there are numerous fundraising events during this month. If you would like to make a different, please visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk to see how you can help. Thanks from the hairy and not so hairy partners across the land