By Nicolas Lepigeon
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Impossible to miss them, with their red outfits and their beautiful dogs. This vFriday, May 12, 2023 in Cherbourg (Manche), a major operation to raise awareness of visual impairment, called “Blindness and mobility”, was organized by the “Guide dogs association for the blind – Centers Paul Corteville”.
“We came by bus to 44 people in order to promote our missions in favor of visually impaired people, announces Véronique Van Gansbeke, in charge of awareness. Our association is born in 1952. That year, Paul Corteville, a true pioneer of the movement, presented the first guide dog for the blind in France, Dickie. »
More than 1,800 dogs donated!
The principles of education are clearly established from the outset, including the dog free. For 71 years, more than 1,800 dogs have been donated!
The association sits at Roncq (near Lille)where his school has been open since 2008, in a building of 2,600 m2 on a plot of 22,000 m2. Another school is located in Honguemare-Guenouville, in theEure.
Our association’s mission is to improve mobility and strengthen the autonomy of blind or visually impaired people. We train and entrust guide dogs free of charge to visually impaired people in order to facilitate their daily activities, allow them to circulate in public places, and to have a companion who facilitates their social integration.
In France, a million people are visually impaired (blindness, severe or moderate visual impairment). But only 1,500 of them are equipped with a guide dog.
The association is active in 14 departments from the north of France. In front of Les Éléis, several stands were set up to attract the general public: sale of dog stuffed animals, candles and other goodies; blind tests with funny glasses or a blindfold; information, documentation and exchanges with beneficiaries, volunteers, educators, monitors…
We could thus learn that they do not perform no canvassing to collect money, either at the door or over the phone.
The association finances its actions 100% through donations, bequests, life insurance, etc. This money is used to educate and provide free guide dogs for the blind; provide free electronic white canes; commit to accessibility in all public places; inform as much as possible about visual impairment in all types of structures and with all audiences. As was the case on Friday May 12, for the very first time in Cherbourg.
“We informed various local structures and other specialists directly or indirectly related to our activities of our arrival: AVH (Valentin Haüy association), Rétina, CCAS, school of nurses, ophthalmologists, orthoptists, City of Cherbourg-en- Cotentin… We always want to find new volunteers, donors and beneficiaries. »
Because there is a information deficit with the visually impaired, who do not necessarily know everything that is offered to help them, who wonder about the possibility of obtaining travel assistance, about the solutions adapted to their needs. For example, “we train for free in the use of electronic white canes or Minitact indoor enclosures”.
The demonstrations, on the course strewn with obstacles of all kinds, greatly pleased the public. Remarkable, the dog Sherlock guided the trainer Cédric so that he avoids all the dangers: work, pipes and cables on the ground, high bar, studs, going up and down a sidewalk, cross safely on a pedestrian crossing, find a free seat. Impressive !
“We lose sight, not life”
Between the master’s orders and the animal’s movements (sitting, two legs on the sidewalk, stopping, etc.), communication takes place in symbiosis. A beautiful complicity is established to allow the next beneficiary suffering from a visual impairment to be able to move independently in their daily journeys.
Testimony of Cherbourgeois Mickaël Quesnée
“I was born in Cherbourg 46 years ago, and I was born visually impaired. I see shapes, colors, lights on the sides. At the time, I couldn’t go to the right schools, I didn’t have any diplomas, and therefore I never worked. I live in a house in Octeville and I’m quite busy: I do a lot of walking, I swim at the Chantereyne and La Butte swimming pools. My guide dog Opio, a male black Labrador, is essential for me to travel independently, take the bus, go to the shops. When I go to the swimming pool, he rests in a room, we have our habits. He was given to me in September 2020. Everyone wants to pet him, he is very popular with children and he is very sociable.
This is the second guide dog I have. When the first died I had a lot of trouble getting over it so I didn’t want to ask again. In between, I had a companion golden, not to guide me. I stayed 14 years without a guide, but by dint of falling because of the obstacles on my way, I was able to meet Opio and between us it matched.
There was a visit from Charlotte to my house, then I did a two-day reception course at the school in Honguemare-Guenouville, and finally a few lessons at home. Thank you to the association because thanks to it, I am safe again. This kind of event is important because it makes people aware of our visual disabilities and informs about solutions to improve our daily lives. I think I’m the only Cherbourgeois to have a guide dog. »
Next development of the association, in 2024, it will open its new functional rehabilitation center. To relearn how to cook, use a computer, play sports. “This center should give hope, concludes Véronique Van Gansbeke, because you lose your sight, not your life. »
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