Three questions with a blind person #2

I know that fully sighted people have many questions centered around what it is like to be blind (or visually impaired) so I thought it would be informative to start a new ongoing segment here where I answer three questions about being blind or visually impaired.  If you have (respectful) questions you would like answered, feel free to contact me via Twitter @nedskee and I will be happy to include them in this series. The response over this article series has been great, please keep the question submissions coming.  Let’s get started, shall we?

What are dreams like?

I was not born blind, so my answer for this question might be a bit different than you are looking for. Let me start this by saying that because someone is blind does not mean they have no imagination. We imagine things just like you do. The dictionary defines a dream as: a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. The dreams one has are generally expounded from experiences, like movies, books or other stories brought to life by your subconscious mind. It makes sense that things you see (like a car or airplane) inhabit your dreams because you have seen or interacted with these objects and know what they look like. A blind person has likely held a Hot Wheel or other small toy car and therefore knows what the shape is. Blind people also understand movement, every day we are out in the world, we hear cars drive by, so we have references for shape and sound and the way the car travels. This can also be said for airplanes. The only reference we might not have is the color. How do you explain color to a person who has been blind since birth? I have full color reference and can still see some color in the shapes I can still perceive.

As for my personal experiences dreaming, I do not have limited vision in my dreams. I can see perfectly and experience the world as I did before my sight ending car accident. Truth be told, I do often awaken from a particularly intense dream and often find myself being disappointed that my vision does not mirror the vision I have in my dreams.

How does a guide dog ride in an airplane?

The series Pick of the Litter on Disney+ has sparked many questions about daily life with a guide dog. If you have not seen Pick of the Litter, the series follows a few adorable puppies as they learn to become guide dogs and are eventually paired with their human teammate. It is a great show and I highly recommend it.

There are several questions that can be answered here, how does a guide dog ride in an airplane? When you book your travel do you have to buy them their own seat? Do they have to ride in the cargo hold like other pets do? What happens if the dog needs to go to the bathroom while on the plane? I will start from the top:

Guide dogs ride at the feet of the person.  The dogs are usually small enough that once you sit down in your seat, you grab them and unceremoniously stuff them under the seat in front of you. They do not need seat belts and they generally nap while the plane is in the air. Traversing the airport and traveling in general takes a lot out of these dogs mentally, so they seem to relish the nap time when they are on the plane and settled. Many guide dogs (including mine) also ride at the feet of their handler in the car as well. This can be a bit jarring to an Uber driver when you ask if you can sit in the front seat with them. Having the guide at your feet keeps them from getting on the back seat and reduces hair shedding on the seat.

Guide dogs do not have to ride in the cargo hold like pets because they are not pets. A guide dog is considered a medical device and therefore travels on the plane with you. You are not required to buy them a seat since they ride at your feet when on the plane. As for the dog having to relieve themselves, guide dogs are on a strict time schedule for relieving. They go out at a certain time every day, eat at a specific time and sleep at a specific time. This means that you can schedule your flight around their relieving schedule easily. It is also common practice to limit fluid intake and food the night before, so the dog does not have to go on the plane. Once you have reached your destination, feel and water as usual. There are also relieving stations for dogs in the airport, I make sure to allow enough time to let my guide use the facilities, so she is comfortable during the flight.  

When a guide dog defecates who picks it up?

There have been a lot of memes going around about this question, and this is a good time to answer it. Guide dogs are on a strict relieving schedule, so it is easy to plan outings around their relieving schedule. We generally go to the grocery store or go for a walk right after my guide’s relieving time. This reduces the likelihood of an accident in the store. My guide is very good about letting me know she needs to go with signals while we are walking, so I can relieve her before we go into a store. When the dog goes, they have two different stances, either straight back (for urination) or arched back (for defecation). The guides are used to being touched while they relieve, so you can easily determine if you need a waste bag. I personally have a waist-worn treat bag which has treats, waste bags and a new paper towels just in case. If the dog defecates, you get out a waste bag, turn it inside out and put your hand in, then pick up the waste. The dog is on a short lead or handle, so you know the general location of the waste, and of course there is the smell. It is not a mystery, you just pick it up and throw it away. My guide will even lead me to the closest trash can because she is awesome. The handler is always responsible for cleaning up after their dog just like anyone else with a pet dog is.  

I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram and I will follow you back. Until then, get out and get shooting! 

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