Blogging 101:Thank You Translink

Today our local public transport provider Translink, took part in a fantastic event to understand the difficulties faced by visually impaired people.

This morning, i headed up to Belfast to meet the chief executive of Translink along with some people from guide dogs. The chief executive was going to be doing a blind fold walk with a training guide dog to understand some of the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people in relation to public transport. While we waited for everyone to arrive, we had time to stop for a quick cup of tea.

When the people from guide dogs arrived, i was asked if i would do a phone interview with the radio station
As they were running a feature on the event. The station also wanted to talk to the campaignes manager from Guide dogs about what was happening.

After that, we headed back to meet the others. Altogether, there were 3 guide dog owners including me and 2 white cane users. We also met with a couple of Translink people including the chief executive himself. A lady from the BBC was there too, and again, they wanted me to do an interview about how i found Translinks services.

Next, it was time for the chief executive to put on the blind fold and walk with a dog. He was with a guide dog mobility instructor totalk him through the experience. The journey started at Translinks office across the road from the train station. He had to walk in to the station, before going to get a train and experiencing the level of assistance offered to help him out to the train. We all climbed aboard to join him and discuss how we found the service. I must add personally here that the level of assistance on the trains is second to none. All the train staff are trained in how to sighted guide a visually impaired person, as well as how to deal with getting wheelchair users on board too. It’s as if it is second nature to them and nothing is too much of a problem for them.

After that, we headed back in again where it was on to a goldliner bus. These busses are the busses that run outside of Belfast. I stayed behind though with someone from Translink as it was all getting a bit too much for the training dog, what with there being 3 other guide dogs to distract him. Plus, there isn’t really a lot of room on the Gold liner busses. Ushi goes right up to the back of them because that’s where she can find the most room. So i think it was a bit of a tight squeeze to get the other dogs on and comfortable.

For the metro bus which was next, it was just one other guide dog owner who went on out of all of us. We stayed behind to look at a new app that is in testing at the minute to help people locate busses around them. It’s not going too well, so i think there are more tweeks to be done to it. The train and the gold liner weren’t moving, but the Metro bus was so that the chief could see the audio announcements in action. The blind fold was taken off between each thing i think, but am not too sure.

We hung about for a while before heading back over to the Translink office to watch a dvd that Guide dogs had made a few years ago discussing best practices for busses pulling up to the kerb and such. We discussed that before wrapping things up.

I would like to thank Translink for letting us chat to the chief and for him taking on the blind fold challenge. Fair play to him!

If anyone would like to hear my radio interviews, you can
Listen to my interview with Frank Mitchel
And you can
Listen to tonights Edition of Evening Extra
Where the report is about 12 minutes in.

It was a really fabulous day. It couldn’t have gone any better. Fair play again to the chief executive and to Translink in general for letting the chief experience this somewhat challenging day for him.

As a side note, i must work on my “ums” and “ya knows” on radio :).

Talking Guide Dogs

Last night, my rehab worker rang me to see if I wanted to attend a talk with him today. He was doing it for the RNIB down in Colleraine. I said yeah i would. He was going to ask another guide dog owner, but she hasn’t been too well lately, so he asked me instead.

Before I get to today though, the past couple of days have been rather weird.

On Monday I was going to my quilting course as usual. It was windy but it wasn’t raining thankfully. We got to about the second house, when Ushi stopped. There was a car in front of us, but this was a wee bit back from the car. I had to get really firm with her, and eventually she did go, but it just took a hell of alot of time before she went. She hasn’t stopped like this in ages. Once we got by the car she was grand.

On the way back from town she was grand and walked past it.

I got my sister and dad to come with me for my second walk to see what the problem was. Again the same thing happened. She had passed this particular car loads of times so i don’t know what the problem was. It was just at that one car.

Yesterday I tried experimenting a little. Instead of going straight up to the kerb outside our house like i’d usually do, I just turned right at the end of our driveway to see if that helped. I also gave her a treat at the end of the first corner. I hardly ever give her treats on our walks, but thought she might need a little incentive to go forward. That worked a treat! She worked like a little angel! I even had an opportunity to do some educating!

There is this pathway that is like a shorter version of the church route. It cuts a big chunk out of it but still makes it a decent route. I was only doing this way as i didn’t want to do a the full thing. A family were coming out of where I was going. I thought maybe they had a dog with them (who knows why), so stopped to let them past. The father/grandad was chatting away to me, and saying about how he’d seen me going up and down the road. He had kids with him. I asked if the kids would like to pet the dog, and explained that you must always ask a guide dog owner before petting. They seemed interested, but didn’t rush up to pet the dog or anything which was good. They left shortly after that, but I thought it was good.

Unfortunately on our second walk of the day though we ran into a bit of a problem. We had just done the church route, but I wanted to do a little extra path my sister had shown me which eventually took me onto my block route home. We were about to do it when I heard two dogs fighting. They were apparently across the road, but i thought they were just up ahead. My sister said it was a wee stray dog that was fighting with another dog on its lead. As soon as I heard the tell tail signs, I turned and headed straight home. Luckily we were a bit away from them, but i deffinetly wasn’t going to risk Ushi getting caught up in it. I hope the poor wee thing was okay.

Part of me just feels rather silly the way i react to other dogs, but i really don’t want Ushi going through such a horrible thing as before.

Anyway on to today….

My rehab worker was going to be collecting me at about half 12, so I decided to do a walk before chilling for a while. I just did a short walk, as I wasn’t sure if the little dog from last night was still around. Again though we had no stops, and she walked me around lots of bins and such. Normally she sort of will stand at a bin sometimes as if to say “what do you want me to do about it?”. So it was a good if short walk.

We came back and chilled for a while then until my rehab worker came to collect me.

I decided to experiment with something. I’m not sure if i’ve mentioned this, but whenever Ushi would get out of a car, she would pull quite a bit. It would be quite bad until we sat down somewhere. I thought it wasn’t fair on people guiding me, and i also felt that it probably didn’t look that good when the guide dog was pulling. So I slipped the Halty on. I then took her to spend and once I took the halty off, there was no pulling at all! So maybe putting the halty on before getting out of the car is good? The only problem would be if she was in the boot of a car. I don’t know what i’d do then. I suppose before we set off i could stick it on at least until i’d spent her? She doesn’t seem to pull on trains or busses. Not that i’ve noticed anyway!

The RNIB had a spending pen! I didn’t put Ushi in it though as i knew she wouldn’t use it. I was a bit disappointed though since i thought that I may as well have used it since it was there, but I knew Ushi wouldn’t use it so just used grass instead. How typical though that it was available though but she would just have to be awkward and not like going on concrete!

We got settled in on a nice comfy sofa lol. It was just a very informal talk really. Ushi settled almost straight away which was good.

There were about 20 people there in the group. They were all quite elderly and were mostly newly diagnosed as blind or partially sighted.

My rehab worker first of all talked about the myths about owning a guide dog, and tried to dispell them. He also talked about things like the enquiry visit and stuff that you will have if you apply for a guide dog.

Next, he passed over to me. I hadn’t prepared anything, so just said basically that I didn’t know where to start, and that I would just go with the flow. I talked about when I applied, that there were different stages of the guide dog application, and when I got matched with Ushi. I told them what a difference she has made, but ran out of what to say then lol.

The floor was then opened up for questions.

One person came over and i said he could pet the dog if they wanted. They didn’t really like dogs, so I just talked to him and said that you must ask always before petting a dog.

What happened next was quite weird. I understand if the woman was scared of dogs, but I don’t know if she was or not. Anyway she came over and was like “he is lovely” and all. I said that actually she was a she and then the woman was like “It’s not nice for ladies to lick people” or something then she went over and very quickly washed her hands. I don’t know what was up. I never said anything to her, but it did seem a little weird. I mean if you put your hand down to a dog will it not lick you? Who knows.

Our talk lasted for about half an hour. We didn’t have to rush off, so we stayed for another talk by the
Talking Newspaper For Colleraine
They talked about basically what was on the CDS, and that they would provide a CD player and all if you didn’t happen to have one.

We went home after that. It was a good afternoon.

On Friday I might be going to a volunteer event. There is a street collection in Limavady although i said i wasn’t going because i feel it’s too soon to be doing street collections, but I said i would be happy to sit in a coffee shop and encourage volunteers lol.

So if I do go up, i will probably bring something along with me until the event at 1 o’clock. There will be other guide dog owners there too.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

I’m pleased with how the talk went though. I’m sure over time i won’t need to prepare anything.