Greek Guide Dogs
Greek Training and Development Center for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Assistant Dogs for Handicapped
- On the 26th of July 2007 the Panhellenic Association of the Blind organized a conference with the subject “Introducing Guide Dogs – Guide Dog Mobility Training for visually impaired people”. This conference offered the opportunity to all the people and organizations interested, friends of animals and dog trainers to come together and dream of the creation of the first guide dog school in Greece.
- As a result on the 25th of September 2007 the first formal meeting of the committee, working on guide dogs, took place in Athens. In this committee there have been representatives from all the Organizations of the blind and for the blind. The committee had made contacts with European organizations and Guide Dogs Schools in U.K., Croatia, Danemark, USA.
The committee continued his meetings during the whole year. There have been about 10 meetings where the official representatives of the organizations participating discussed in details the following subjects:
- Preparation of the bylaws of the new guide dog association.
- Study visits to European dog training centers in order to collect information and develop collaboration with other schools.
- Research for funding for the realization of the goals of the committee.
- Study of the international legislation and the greek reality concerning issues relevant to guide dogs.
The result of the committee work was the completion and signing of the bylaws and the establishment of the Hellenic Guide Dog Mobility Center for the Blind and Assistance Dogs Center for the Disabled (“Greek Guide Dogs”) on the 25th of July 2008.
During the year the committee realized 3 study visits at European dog training centers.
- On the 10th-13th of February 2008 seven members of the committee (representatives of KEAT, ESAmeA, PST, PEA and EKES) visited the Croatian Guide Dog and Mobility Association in Zagreb where they had the opportunity to see the work of the Croatian Association, the difficulties and challenges faced, the particularities of the country concerning guide dog training and the necessary cooperation with governmental organizations for the improvement of guide dog service provision.
- The trip to the Croatian Guide Dog and Mobility Association was realized through the sponsorship of Alpha Bank.
- In the 27th-30th of May 2008 the second study visit was realized in the Guide Dog Service of the Danish Association of the Blind by the O/M and ADL Instructor of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind, ms Angheliki Verykokaki. During this visit the function and training model of the Danish Guide Dog Service were presented in details: the danish system is completely based on the financial support of the local government and it is independent from the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). It is recognized though for the high quality of the providing services.
- The last visit took place on the 29th-31st August 2008 at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (Guide Dogs UK), at Redbridge Training Center in London. Mrs A. Verykokaki had the chance to be informed in details by the Manager of the center on the guide dog training model and the guide dog instructorsʼ training system with emphasis on basic training issues such as the firm implementation of the international standards through all the phases of the training, records keeping, careful assessment and testing for the choice of puppies, puppy walkers, potential guide dogs, blind users and future guide dog instructors.
The visit at Guide Dogs UK was realized in the framework of communication of the Greek Guide Dogs with the IGDF and particularly through our cooperation with mr Alan Brooks, International Affairs Manager in Guide Dogs UK.
The results of the 3 visits were presented in details and examined in the first formal meeting of the Board of Directors of the Greek Guide Dogs, where it was decided to continue the cooperation with mr Alan Brooks through his visit at the Greek Guide Dogs on the 5th-8th of October 2008.
During his visit, mr Alan Brooks visited the different organizations consisting the Greek Guide Dogs, had a long discussions with the members of the Board, estimated the situation in Greece and made a plan of options for future action of the new association.
- In August 2010 the Board of Directors of the Center had finally decided to collaborate with Mr. Peter Lasaroms, Senior Guide Dog Instructor and Anita Lasaroms, Mobility and Orientation Instructor, Dogs for Care, from Holland and establish in Greece the first Center for Guide Dogs.
The aim of the Center is to train Guide dogs and parallel to train a team of 4 greek people to become Guide Dogs Instructors after an educational program of 5 years due to the criteria of the International Federation of Guide Dogs.
- In August 2010 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health our Center had achieved to be signed the Law Nr. 3868/3.8.2010 which gives the possibility to the visually impaired people and their Guide Dog to have access in public places of mass gathering, Cultural places, Sport places, Entertainment places, Hotels, Cinemas, Theater, etc. Also in February 2014 they were signed two Laws: Law 4235/17.2.2014 for the Puppies that are in training to have the same access that the Guide dogs have and also all Dogs in training and Guide Dogs they will be able to travel without a muzzle, Law 4235/11.2.2014.
- October 2011 began the official program with the arrival of the 1st puppy from Holland, Angel.
- 2012 The PUPPY WALKER PROGRAM had began
- 2012 arrived 3 more puppies, Melitta, Donna and Fivos and 2013 arrived 5 more puppies, Victoria, Irma, Iris, Alma and Frida. In February 2 more Puppies Rea and Ector and from Greece in July Uni and in September Lever.
- In 2013 we have matched two of our Guide Dogs Melitta and Donna with visually impaired people. Angel is now a Service Dog.
- In 2014 we have matched Fivos.
- In March and April 2015 we have matched Victoria and Irma, and we hope to match until the end of 2015 two more.
The project goes well and the Team of our Trainees had already finished their first 3,5 years of training according to the IDGF and they need 1,5 more year to achieve to become Guide dog Instructors.
The adaptation of a Guide Dog in Greek reality and especially in Athens is one of the most difficult issues, because of the lack of public awareness, absence of accessibility measures(the blind routing guides, ramps, sound signals at the traffic lights, etc.)
Our Center works methodically and systematically for informing the public, Public Organizations, Media, Public and Private Firms etc. for the use of Guide Dogs and improve the Guide Dog movement and the application and operation of all possible accessibility measures.
It is important, that in this effort, they are involved all the official associations for the visually impaired people in Greece, such as : Education and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (K.E.A.T.), the National Confederation of people with disabilities (ESAMEA), the National Federation of the Blind (N.F.B.), the Panhellenic Association of the blind (P.A.B.), the Lighthouse for the blind of Greece (F.T.E., the Hellenic Retina Society (H.R.S.),
And two specialized members : E.K.E.S. – Hellenic Dog Training Center and "Right for the Life"– Society for the protection of animals and the environment in the Attica Prefecture.
All Organizations have big experience in the problems concerning visually impaired people and their aim is to establish in Greece a Center for Greek Guide Dogs, a Greek Training and Development Center for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Assistant Dogs for Handicapped.
All together they try for the establishment of this idea in the Greek Society, together with our Sponsor PETLINE (Earthborn Holistic-Pro Pac and Rogz, dogs accessories)!!
To achieve our goal we need Volunteers, Puppy Walkers and Friends who believe in this dream!
Greek Training & Development Center for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Assistant Dogs for Handicapped
- The Members of the Board of Directors of the Greek Guide Dogs, are the following:
- President: Zoi Christopoulou-Geroulanou, Member of Panhellenic Retina Society
- Vice-president: Nikos Gialouris, President of the National Federation of the Blind
- General Secretary: Ilias Margiolas, President of Panhellenic Association of the Blind
- Treasurer: Dimitrios Sifakis Member of the Board of Directors of National Confederation of Disabled People
- Keeper: Theodoros Triantis, Director of the Hellenic Dog Training Centre
- Members: Panagiotis Markostamos, Member of the Board of Directors, Centre of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind, Dimitra Asideri, Member of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Loukas Papaioannou, Vice-president of the Society for the Protection of Animals and the Environment of the Prefecture of Attica, “Right for Life”, Efstratios Hatzixaralampous, President of Hellenic Retina Society, President of the Scientific