Celebrating 20 Years of Free White Cane Training at Leader Dogs for the Blind

·3 min read

First Guide Dog Organization in the U.S. to Provide Orientation & Mobility Training

O&M Training on Leader Dog's Campus

Orientation and Mobility Specialist Garret Waldie teaches LDB Client John N. the technique for safely walking down a staircase using a white cane on Leader Dog’s campus in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Orientation and Mobility Specialist Garret Waldie teaches LDB Client John N. the technique for safely walking down a staircase using a white cane on Leader Dog’s campus in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Orientation and Mobility Specialist Garret Waldie teaches LDB Client John N. the technique for safely walking down a staircase using a white cane on Leader Dog’s campus in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

White Cane Training at Leader Dogs for the Blind

Leader Dogs for the Blind Client Brooke C. successfully completes a street crossing in downtown Rochester, Michigan under the watchful eye of LDB Orientation and Mobility Specialist Kristy Plesscher.
Leader Dogs for the Blind Client Brooke C. successfully completes a street crossing in downtown Rochester, Michigan under the watchful eye of LDB Orientation and Mobility Specialist Kristy Plesscher.
Leader Dogs for the Blind Client Brooke C. successfully completes a street crossing in downtown Rochester, Michigan under the watchful eye of LDB Orientation and Mobility Specialist Kristy Plesscher.

Rochester Hills, Jan. 18, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Leader Dogs for the Blind is celebrating 20 years of providing free white cane training to people who are blind or visually impaired throughout the United States. Formally called Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Training, the program is the first in the U.S. to offer a continuous week of training to help people learn to travel safely and independently using a white cane.

The training, including travel, lodging and meals, is completely free to people at least 16 years old who are legally blind. From someone who has never used a white cane to a long-time user needing fresh skills to navigate a complicated travel environment, all skill levels are welcome.

In the United States, most O&M training is provided by state agencies that often have vocational requirements, making people who won’t be entering the workforce ineligible for services. Leader Dog fills this space by not having this requirement, so everyone has the opportunity for O&M training, including stay-at-home parents and seniors. Also, if someone has completed their state-authorized services but needs additional training, they can participate in Leader Dog’s program to continue to improve their independent travel skills.

The originator of Leader Dog’s program is Rod Haneline, COMS (certified orientation and mobility specialist), who still consults with the organization. “When we realized that a lack of sufficient travel skills was the number one reason people were being denied guide dog training, I felt that we could fill the need,” said Haneline. Haneline oversaw the initial class of six clients the week of January 6, 2002. “From the first class until now,” said Haneline, “We find that clients of all skill levels show notable improvement in all areas of travel after just one week.”

To date, Leader Dog has provided O&M training to 1,086 people from 46 states ranging in age from 16 to 87 years old. “One of the biggest hurdles to providing training is reaching the people who need it,” said Susan Daniels, Leader Dog president and CEO. “When people who are blind don’t have the skills needed to travel independently, they often stay at home and experience isolation and depression. We need the help of people everywhere to make anyone they know who is legally blind aware of our free services. This will help ensure that the people who need these services can lead healthy, fulfilling lives.”

All Leader Dogs for the Blind services are provided free to clients thanks to donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and service organizations like Lions Clubs International. Leader Dog receives no government funding or insurance payments.

Go to LeaderDog.org and choose the “Programs” tab to learn more about Leader Dog’s Orientation & Mobility Training and other free services.

Attachments

CONTACT: Rachelle Kniffen Leader Dogs for the Blind 2486595013 rkniffen@leaderdog.org


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