Over two thirds of people living with sight loss say trust is the most important factor in a partnership

To mark the 2019 Guide Dogs Appeal, Invictus Games winner Kelly Ganfield, speaks out about how her guide dog has changed her life 

To mark its first month long Appeal this October, the charity Guide Dogs has issued new research which shows just how important a trusted partner can be for people with sight loss. One in four people with a vision impairment need support or assistance every day to live the life they choose but more than half (53%) feel awkward asking for help.

Andrea Gordon, Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs and guide dog owner said: “Asking for help can often be a challenge from a practical point of view when going about your daily life. For example, if you live on your own and need assistance at home or simply trying to find someone on the street who can help when you’re out and about. Independence and feeling empowered are vital for people living with a vision impairment; we want to get to work, see friends and enjoy life just like everyone else. Unfortunately the act of asking for help can sometimes be a challenge which is why guide dogs transform lives – they enable freedom, choice and crucially, independence.”

To ensure people living with sight loss can lead the life they choose, a trusted partner – a family member, spouse, friend or in some cases, a guide dog – is often vital. When respondents were asked which factors they felt were most important for a good partnership, trust came out on top with 71% citing it as the most important for professional partnerships and 78% saying it was the most important for a personal partnership.

This year Guide Dogs is naming its Appeal, Pups to Partnerships. Over the four weeks, the charity will be following the progress of a litter of 7 puppies to show their journey to becoming unique and invaluable partners for their future owners.

When Guide Dog Owners were asked what the most outstanding thing was that their guide dog had done for them that enabled them to live an independent life, examples were wide ranging from providing essential companionship to safely guiding them through public spaces. Yet the most common response was the dog enabling the individual to get out and about, feel safe and have a sense of freedom. Other examples included enhancing and developing the owner’s lifestyle and providing companionship and freedom.

Kelly Ganfield, guide dog owner and Invictus Games silver medal winner says: “My guide dog Archie recently came to live with my family and he has transformed my life. Thanks to him I can go to my training sessions independently and take my daughter on the school run, things I could never have imagined doing before. He is enabling me to be a Mum and an athlete in my own right, safe in the knowledge that he is always there with me. It’s not just Archie, it’s my Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor as well. She’s always on the end of the phone if I have any questions about Archie; she’s been instrumental in helping us to form our lifelong bond. I won silver at the Invictus Games but I won gold with Archie.”

The Guide Dogs Pups to Partnerships Appeal will take place from the 1st to the 31st October 2019. During the month-long campaign, the charity aims to raise £420,000 to fund the life-long journey of 7 puppies, who will become life-changing partners to people in the UK living with sight loss. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/appeal or call 03451 430 192.