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SFSU, Guide Dogs for the Blind team up to certify guide dog instructors



William Morris
SFSU Office of Public Affairs & Publications
(415) 405-3606
(415) 338-1665

Tamara Barak, Guide Dogs for the Blind
(415) 492-4110

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


New program -- the first of its kind -- will increase the breadth of skills of guide dog trainers

SAN FRANCISCO, September 1, 2005 -- The training of guide dog instructors moves into an academic setting for the first time this fall as San Francisco State University launches a new master's degree and graduate level certificate program in Guide Dog Mobility. The program, a partnership between the University's Special Education Department and the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind, is the first of its kind in the world.

It will prepare students to work for such organizations as Guide Dogs for the Blind in training those who are visually impaired to work with guide dogs.

In addition, students can work towards a dual certification in Guide Dog Mobility and Orientation and Mobility -- helping people who are visually impaired travel safely and independently through their environment. The dual certificate blends these two fields into a rare combination of skills that will be highly desirable to public schools, state residential schools, Veteran's Administration rehabilitation centers and other agencies that serve the visually impaired.

"Guide dog mobility instructors have always had excellent preparation for their work with canines and the clients they serve," said Sandra Rosen, professor of special education and coordinator of the program. "But the population of people with visual impairment is becoming more diverse as people who have additional disabilities also begin to travel using dog guides. By adding in SFSU's expertise in special education, including orientation and mobility, students will now be able to broaden the skills package that they need to better assess, train and find resources for the visually impaired."

"Having guide dog mobility as a master's program through SFSU's special education program is a wonderful way to enhance the already-existing guide dog mobility instruction education package offered by Guide Dogs for the Blind," said Kathy Kelly, Apprentice Program manager in Guide Dogs for the Blind's training department. "It's an exciting collaboration that will benefit both the guide/service dog field and the orientation and mobility field." Kelly and Rosen spearheaded the new program.

The program begins this fall with two students -- Michael McDonald, a Mill Valley resident, and Andrea Drago, a Napa resident. There is already a growing list of others who wish to apply for admission to the next cohort.

Students take courses on basic orientation and mobility, canine assessment and training, instructional management and training services and medical and educational implications of visual impairment. The certificate program involves two semesters of coursework and a one-year internship at the Guide Dogs for the Blind school in San Rafael, Calif.

Students who wish to earn a master of arts degree in special education with an emphasis on guide dog mobility take an additional three courses that cover research methods, public policy issues and other issues in special education.

Since 1942, Guide Dogs for the Blind has empowered its graduates to live the lives they want by harnessing the incredible power of the human-animal bond. Guide Dogs offer warm companionship, safe mobility and fosters confidence and independence. The organization is supported entirely by private, charitable donations. A committed team of staff members, puppy raisers and other volunteers ensures its graduates receive a lifetime of support.

One of the largest campuses in the California State University system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public, urban university.


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Last modified September 1, 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications