Outlook Enrichment (outlooken.org) wants to highlight the importance of guide dogs and how they improve the lives of those who are blind or visually impaired. Did you know there are an estimated 10,000 dog guides in service at any time in the United States? Of the 8.1 million blind and visually impaired across the nation who are actively working, only 2% of individuals use dog guides.

Under Title I of the ADA, a service animal is considered a reasonable accommodation. The function of a guide dog is to provide access to the environment by guiding a handler and completing essential tasks along the path of travel. The guide dog provides environmental feedback based on behaviors that indicate to the handler that there is an obstacle, such as an elevator, stairs, or construction. The dog also provides a level of safety to the blind pedestrian. All guide dogs undergo extensive traffic training so they know how to react to an oncoming car.

Guide dog etiquette is essential in allowing the dog to focus on its role and completing tasks. Please don’t touch, talk, feed, pet, or distract the dog while wearing its harness. Always speak to the handler, not the dog, and always ask if you can pet the service animal.

Outlook Enrichment can connect individuals to the many dog guide schools and can assist employers, and community businesses develop policies that accommodate and welcome this unique population. For more information, visit outlooken.org.