Guide Dog Adventure at London Road

We had some lovely visitors in the Institute of Education’s, London Road Campus, Learning Hub on Thursday 12th November, which was very kindly sponsored by the Specialkidz educational & social enterprise charity. Some furry (and non-furry!) friends from Guide Dogs came to raise awareness of mobility services for people who are blind or partially sighted in the UK.

Also, we hoped that it would support well-being throughout the University of Reading and the date was specifically chosen as it was a key time in the academic year; some students were handing in assignments, which can be stressful. Hopefully the Guide Dogs would relieve the stress that some students might encounter when completing course work. The feedback certainly seemed to suggest the session helped.

Karen Goulding, Director of The Learning Hub conducted a small research survey; students who were handing in their assignments were asked to complete a very short feedback sheet before and after they entered The Hub. The results were interesting; before entering the event most students were excited or happy but one was nervous and three were scared, this could have been for a variety of reasons. The same students, upon leaving felt thoughtful, excited but mostly happy; none were scared or nervous.

Karen Goulding, Director of The Learning Hub response was, “All the hard work and organisation was worth the effort to see so many happy faces on a day that is sometimes rather stressful and it would be interesting to complete the same short survey to see what the results would be on another assignment hand in, but without the presence of the Guide Dogs, I think they made a wonderful difference to general wellbeing, which is such a relevant topic at the moment.”

Throughout the event Institute of Education staff, students and visitors played with the dogs, talked to their trainers and owners and took part in activities to learn more about what it is like to be blind or visually impaired.

Dr Cathy Tissot Head of the Institute of Education said, “What a great opportunity for our students to meet the Guide Dogs and individuals that work with, and are supported by them.  It really gave students and staff the chance to have a limited experience of visual impairment and speak with those affected by it.  What a wonderful day and we hope to be able to invite the Guide Dogs back next year.”

The response and feedback arising from the event was amazing. One member of staff wrote: “This has been, without any doubt, absolutely the best morning at work ever – the dogs were beautiful, their owners/trainers really interesting and the visually-impaired activities a revelation. Thank you so much for organising this – please can this become a regular event? Do you want any volunteers?!”

Ken Carter who is the Chair & founded Specialkidz , was delighted to be involved in sponsoring this highly successful educational awareness event on a university campus of learning; and was really pleased that so many students and staff came along to support “Guide Dogs” and also learn something about the work of Specialkidz” .

The next day, Robert Macleay from Guide Dogs emailed with wonderful news; “Feedback from staff and volunteers has been great. They all really enjoyed the morning and said everyone was very welcoming. The students were very engaging and wanted to ask questions rather than just meet the dogs, which was fantastic! All in all the day will have raised around £650, from donations, which is excellent.”

It was a fabulous day, enjoyed by all who came. We hope to see the Guide Dogs team back on campus again soon!