The "Why" of Leader Dogs for the Blind

Message from the President

Published in: Update - Issue 3 - 2017 »   


Close-up photo of President and CEO Sue Daniels smiling and holding a black lab puppy

As we enjoy this beautiful fall weather in Michigan and prepare for colder weather ahead, I want to reflect on the Leader Dog mission and the “why” behind our programs and services.

For people who are blind or visually impaired, the loss of sight is only the beginning of a life-changing reality. The simplest to the most complex everyday tasks may become daunting and can lead to depression, anxiety and isolation. The number of individuals who are blind or visually impaired is growing every year and the statistics are staggering:

  • 285,000,000 people are visually impaired worldwide
  • 1,300,000 people are legally blind in the United States
  • 75,000 people become blind or visually impaired each year in the U.S.
  • 90% live in low-income settings worldwide
  • 60% of those who are working age are unemployed in the U.S.
  • 10% travel independently with a cane or guide dog

Whether they were born without sight or lost sight later in life, people who are blind or visually impaired endure hardships most can barely imagine. That’s where we come in. From white cane training (as part of our Accelerated Orientation and Mobility Training) to matching people with a Leader Dog, we provide the tools and skills to introduce or reintroduce people to a life of independence, confidence and companionship.

As the holidays approach, you may be making travel plans to connect with family and friends. You will navigate planes, trains and automobiles. You may head out to the countryside or into a big city. Our clients will do the same. Regardless of where our clients travel, Leader Dog provides the training to ensure they can do so safely and independently.

In this issue, you will learn more about our urban travel guide dog class in Chicago. Designed for people who live, work or travel in large city environments, this specially focused training helps clients and their Leader Dogs learn how to safely navigate crowded streets, subways, elevated trains and other elements unique to large cities.

I wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season, wherever your travels may take you.

Susan M. Daniels
President and CEO