Celebrating 20 Years of Free White Cane Training at Leader
Rochester Hills, Jan. 18, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Leader Dogs for the Blind is celebrating 20 years of free white cane training for people who are blind or visually impaired across the United States. Formally called Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Training, the program is the first in the United States to offer a continuous week of training to help people learn to travel safely and independently using a white cane.
The training, including transportation, accommodation and meals, is completely free for people 16 and older who are legally blind. From someone who has never used a white cane to a long time user needing new 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 occupational requirements, making people who will not enter the workforce ineligible for services. Leader Dog fills this gap by not having this requirement, so everyone has the opportunity to get O&M training, including stay-at-home parents and seniors. Additionally, if someone has completed their state-licensed services but needs additional training, they can participate in the Leader Dog program to continue improving their independent travel skills.
The originator of the Leader Dog program is Rod Haneline, COMS (Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist), who always consults with the organization. “When we realized that lack of sufficient travel skills was the number one reason people were being denied training as guide dogs, I thought we could fill the need,” Haneline said. Haneline supervised the initial class of six clients the week of January 6, 2002. “From first class to now,” said Haneline, “We are seeing clients of all skill levels show noticeable improvement in all areas of travel after just one week.”
To date, Leader Dog has provided O&M training to 1,086 individuals from 46 states between the ages of 16 and 87. “One of the biggest hurdles in training is reaching the people who need it,” said Susan Daniels, president and CEO of Leader Dog. “When blind people lack the skills to travel independently, they often stay home and experience isolation and depression. We need the help of people around the world to let anyone they know who is legally blind know about our free services. This will help ensure that people who need these services can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
All of Leader Dogs for the Blind’s services are provided free of charge to customers through 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 and Mobility Training and other free services.
O&M training on the Leader Dog campus
White Cane Training at Leader Dogs for the Blind