GUIDE Dogs are hoping to extend their help to support visually impaired wheelchair users.
The charity are working to train dogs to help those in wheelchairs safely find their way around as well as doing tasks such as retrieving items and opening doors.
Mobility instructor Debbie Edwards says a pilot of the scheme has been a success and now she is training the first guide dogs to be matched with disabled users up and down the country.
Debbie has been using a chair donated by Active Mobility in Stratford to train the first ten dogs.
She told the Observer: “I have been working as a guide dog mobility instructor for almost 21 years and have lost count of the number of on foot dogs I’ve trained, but these will be my first wheelchair clients.
“Over the last few years we have been looking at the feasibility of training visually impaired wheelchair users with guide dogs. Now I am looking at mine being matched with owners towards the end of September.”
Training a guide dog to help a wheelchair user is believed to cost around £70,000 over the course of the dog’s lifetime compared to the £50,000 for a regular guide dog.
The money goes towards the extra training needed to walk next to a chair and guide a visually impaired disabled person.
And it seems the service will be in demand with wheelchair users already putting their names on a waiting list for a dog.
Debbie said: “I am currently working with dogs with a view to them going out with wheelchair users soon. We have had applications coming in constantly from the south coast right up to Scotland.”
Visit guidedogs.org.uk to donate or find out more.