On Friday 18 January, Guide Dogs launched their My Guide service in Bristol at Stillhouse Lane which was attended by many representatives from across the sight loss sector in Bristol, including Vision West of England's Business and Innovations Manager, Toby, and his Guide Dog Willow.
About the My Guide Service
Sight loss affects around 2 million people in the UK, a number which is on the rise. It is estimated that at least 180,000 of these people rarely leave their homes alone and struggle with feelings of isolation and depression. To change this, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association offer a variety of services, including My Guide.
There are two main services within My Guide: the first is creating partnerships between a visually impaired person and a volunteer trained in sighted guiding. The second is to offer training for the friends and family of someone with a visual impairment on how to safely guide them.
A My Guide partnership involves a trained volunteer assisting a visually impaired person to gain confidence and independence. This is achieved through regular outings, either weekly or fortnightly for an agreed time period to help build up confidence in and achieve the goals of the service user. My Guides accompany service users to facilitate tasks such as running errands, practicing everyday routes, using public transport, or going to the gym to build confidence in these areas.
Charlotte Stephens, My Guide Manager, says “When someone loses their sight, they can also lose confidence; or in the worst cases become socially isolated. Introducing a My Guide into someone’s life makes a real difference. In volunteering a couple of hours a week, it can make the seemingly insurmountable, possible for a service user.”
Suzanne, a service user in Exeter says “Jan, my My Guide volunteer, has been invaluable in making my relocation from Sussex to Exeter a positive experience. Moving meant I had to make a mental map of my new surroundings and Jan has been key in supporting my independence in my new home town.”
If like Suzanne you are visually impaired, living in the Bristol area or anywhere in the south West and would like to make use of the My Guide service, please call the Guide Dogs South West Team on 0345 143 0204. If you would like to volunteer with the My Guide service please apply online by visiting guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer.
Do visit the Guide Dogs website to find out more about My Guide, Guide Dogs and much more.