The Deaf-Blind program was established in 1991. It was created by a Leader Dog team member who recognized the need; he is recognized nationally as a pioneer in this field.
Leader Dogs are trained to guide individuals who are both deaf and blind.
On average, six people who are Deaf-Blind graduate each year. Nearly 100 people have graduated from the program since its inception in 1991.
Leader Dogs for the Blind has two instructors who communicate with clients in tactile American Sign Language (“reading” hands are gently placed over “speaking” hands to feel the sign language).
Leader Dogs are trained to understand and respond to both verbal commands and sign language hand signals.
Leader Dogs prepared for Deaf-Blind clients receive up to six months of training (as compared to four months for “standard” Leader Dog training).
Leader Dogs assigned to Deaf-Blind clients are hand-picked by the specialized instructors. These dogs are chosen for appropriate attention to the handler and their ability to assume a greater amount of responsibility.
Deaf-Blind clients complete a 25-day residential training program at Leader Dogs for the Blind. The client to instructor ratio is 1:2 (as compared to 1:6 for “standard” class).
During class, clients learn how to care for and communicate with their Leader Dog. Clients are taught how to travel safely with their new partner as a Leader Dog team or “unit.”