Project Type Transfer of Innovation
Country UK-United Kingdom
Marketing Text Guide dogs provide blind people with increased mobility and wellbeing and make them more economically active. Research in the UK (Pey et al, 2006) has shown that blind people who are guide dog owners are twice as independently mobile as non-guide dog owners and report greater wellbeing; they are more likely to be employed and have greater social networking through active social lives. European citizens are being denied these benefits in some states as the provision of guide dogs has suffered from fragmentation of delivery, low investment in training and poor retention of guide dog instructors. Often, the service is limited by funding which leads to inconsistent criteria resulting in poorly trained and inadequate dogs. In some countries, the dog may be trained more as a guard than a guide while in others, a shortage of instructors means blind people cannot count on receiving a dog when they need and want one.
The project addressed this situation by developing and rolling out a qualifying programme of training for instructors which addresses the welfare and training of the dog as well as the instruction of the client in its safe and effective use as an aid to independent mobility.
The group of partners consisted of Guide Dogs for the Blind,UK who have been providing a high quality service for more than 75 years, Lincoln University who assisted in the development of the course used by Guide Dogs UK and have considerable expertise in animal behavioural psychology, The European Standards Agency (CEN) and a group of five European guide dog schools in Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. These schools were chosen to reflect the diversity of geographic and demographic factors found in Europe. Together with the European Association for Service Providers for people with disabilities (EASPD), who used their experience in project management to support the consortium, the project has sought to adapt an established solution to benefit those who need it most.
The project demonstrated how the UK-based training can be adapted to suit delivery in the partner countries. This should enhance recruitment and retention of staff, increase service profile to funders and develop a European workforce providing a valuable service to blind people. An extension of this training could be applied to other assistance dog training such as hearing dogs, disability dogs, therapy pets etc.
Overall, by pooling the expertise of individual members the project showed how other schools can benefit from a common standards framework as operated in the UK, in the longer term leading to increased numbers of Instructors and greater acceptance of guide and assistance dogs across Europe. It will assist other work in Europe on the definition of assistance dogs and maximise opportunities for blind people in employment, travel and recreation as part of the Equal Treatment Directive relating to access to goods and services.
Achievements of the project:
- Transfer and contextualise a training programme for guide and assistance dog instructors based on best practice.
- Produce a common standardisation platform for training and make such changes as may be required based on a pilot phase of activity
- Develop modualised training for Instructors in line with national and European systems for qualification and credit accumulation and transfer and make recommendations for a flexible delivery system
- Develop a CEN Workshop Agreement (CENWA) to cover the training of instructors
- Enable the adoption of standards consistently across Europe by complying with national and trans-national requirements;
- Provide standards, learning outcomes and appropriate training materials in all partners' languages
- Produce a road map for future implementation across Europe
Impact of the project:
- increased number of enquiries coming from local volunteering and professionals
- national authorities favor the development of this new profession
- educational authorities are interested to become partners in the future development of the curriculum
- European acceptance of the need to address the issue of a standardised training for GDMI's
Access for disadvantaged
Human Health and Social Work Activities
material for open learning
program or curricula
procedure for the analysis and prognosis of the vocational training requirement
In addition to the project website (www.egdms.eu), regular reports, guidelines and an e-newsletter produced by the individual work packages during the course of the Project, we produced the following:
1. An adapted training programme for guide dog Instructors;
2. A validation strategy for each partner country, i.e. recommendations for local action to secure validation of a professional qualification in line with the academic level of the innovation and European VET policies and frameworks;
3. A VET strategy road map for each country, i.e. guidance on the implementation of the transfer in the local context to meet the requirements of VET frameworks and policies;
4. A CEN Workshop Agreement which has formalised the standards produced and prepared them for recognition and acceptance across Europe, i.e. a semi-formal instrument used to establish the capacities of a qualified guide dog instructor;
5. An agreed Standards Baseline to assist in the development of other areas of standardisation, comply with European and International regulations and assist local funding sources in their continued support of guide dog schools;
6. Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Standards, i.e. a statement of learning outcomes and performance indicators relating to the professional training and qualification of Guide Dog Instructors which will increase access to goods and services and permit increased mobility of employment and comply with European and International guidelines;
7. Details and benefits of standardisation, i.e. a document setting out the benefits of standardisation to the target group and ultimate beneficiaries.
8. A final conference which disseminated the work and products of the project to a wider audience.