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Celebrate The Seeing Eye

SeeingEyeWhen: January 29

What: Since passing in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has made everyday life more accessible to the 41.3 million disabled Americans. Creations like Braille, access ramps and assistance dogs have been around for years, but it’s only within the last of couple of decades that the right to access and use these innovations has been legally enforced. Bred, raised and trained from puppies, assistance dogs are one of the more exceptional but now widely accepted ways to help the disabled. Jan. 29 marks the 82nd anniversary of the founding of The Seeing Eye. Take this chance to recognize the advances that the disabled have made and the challenges that continue to face them.

Background: Incorporated in 1929, The Seeing Eye is based in New Jersey and has trained over 15,000 dogs to aid the visually impaired. The first training center of its kind in North America was co-founded by Morris Frank, who was seeing-impaired, and Dorothy Harrison Eustis, a dog trainer. After reading an article by Eustis that talked about training dogs to help blinded World War I veterans, Frank wrote her a letter asking for assistance. She agreed to help and sent him a German shepherd named Buddy. Not long after, The Seeing Eye was born.

Story Pitch: Any group that aims to empower and improve the lives of people with disabilities has a red letter day on this anniversary. Because assistance animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, those who work to defend and advance the rights of the disabled can use assistance animals as a clear example of effective and commonsensical accessibility options that also need legal protection. Those who strive to educate the public, specifically young people, can use assistance animals as an interesting and familiar launching point for a discussion. There are many issues and discrimination that people with disabilities face and educators can help young people to understand and make a difference. It’s also a chance for the wider field of animal therapy to get some attention. Though they’re often known to visit hospitals and senior homes to comfort and cheer people up, therapy animals are also employed to help children build reading confidence, and even comfort stressed-out students.

Story Hook: According to the Census Bureau, people 65 and older have the highest prevalence of disabilities in comparison to other age groups. What are some ways seniors are using assistance or therapy animals? Keep the following in mind when making your pitch:

  • What are some of the benefits that people of all ages can draw from an assistance or therapy animal?
  • How are assistance animals selected and trained?
  • Besides mobility, what other challenges to their independence are disabled people confronted with?
  • What are some misconceptions that people with certain disabilities, and the animals that assist them, face?

Tips: Be sure to provide contact information for assistance or therapy animal training centers as well as someone who has benefited from working with an assistance animal.

Resources:

Americans with Disabilities Act
800-514-0301
www.ada.gov

The Seeing Eye
(973) 539-4425
info(at)seeingeye.org
www.seeingeye.org

Delta Society
(425) 679-5500
info(at)deltasociety.org
www.deltasociety.org

U.N. Enable
enable(at)un.org
www.un.org/disabilities

–Researched, compiled & written by Nicholas Testa
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