About Guiding Eyes for the Blind

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is dedicated to enriching the lives of blind and visually impaired men and women by providing them with the freedom to travel safely, thereby assuring greater independence, dignity and new horizons of opportunity.

Who We Serve

[Woman and German Shepherd in harness sharing some affection.]Since 1954 Guiding Eyes for the Blind has graduated some 6,000 guide dog teams, always meeting the highest standards of excellence in the type of dog provided and the instruction offered.

Applicants must be at least sixteen years old and legally blind, ambulatory, self-motivated and able to properly handle and care for a dog. Guiding Eyes for the Blind was one of the first schools to accept elderly students and legally blind students who have a degree of residual vision.

At its training center in Yorktown Heights, New York, thirty-five miles north of New York City, Guiding Eyes has also taken the lead in developing a curriculum and training program for those students with multiple disabilities, such as deafness or orthopedic problems, in addition to their visual impairment. Our Special Needs Program gives selected guide dogs additional training designed for a specific student's unique requirements, such as learning to respond to hand signals as well as vocal commands. [Drawing of yellow lab in harness]

Our Dogs

In 1966, Guiding Eyes for the Blind recognized the need for a "special dog," so it began breeding its own dogs. Today, Guiding Eyes for the Blind's breeding program supplies more than 98% of the dogs used by the school.

Through selective breeding, high quality animals have been developed with the intelligence, temperament, and natural aptitude needed for careers as guide dogs. Labrador Retrievers are the most common breed used for guide dog work, followed by German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.

At seven to ten weeks of age, puppies are placed with pre-screened volunteer foster families who make a year or more commitment to donating their time, energy and love to raising a future guide dog under the supervision of Guiding Eyes for the Blind staff. More than 500 foster families, from Maine to North Carolina, participate in the puppy raising program.

During this period, in addition to being taught house manners, the dogs are exposed to a variety of environments that blind individuals might one day encounter, such as offices, malls, supermarkets, churches, elevators and other public and private settings. When the puppies are between 13 to 22 months old, they are returned to Guiding Eyes and evaluated for professional training.

Our Training

[Students and dogs on a train platform.]During their formal training period, dogs learn to respond intelligently to changes in their surroundings, and to guide their instructors around high and low obstacles. They are taught to lead out rather than walk in a heel position, and to stop at all curbs and stairs, both up and down. Gradually the dogs learn to assume responsibility for the safe travel of their human partners.

After a minimum of 16 weeks of training and regular evaluations, the dogs are prepared to be teamed with visually impaired students. Blind students are carefully evaluated on the basis of their physical abilities and personalities and are then matched with a compatible dog. In order to meet the individual needs of every applicant, an in-depth home interview is an integral part of our application process. Guide dogs and students meet each other and are trained together in a one-month residential class.

Blind students learn how to get the most mobility and safety from their dogs, beginning in quiet areas without many obstacles, and gradually progressing into more complex areas such as crowded stores and busy intersections. Training concludes with a visit to New York City, where teams learn to work on subways, crowded sidewalks, escalators and in modern office buildings.

Follow Up Services

Instructors provide continuous follow-up services to graduates of Guiding Eyes for the Blind in order to provide assistance, suggestions, and general support as required.
Since the average working life of a guide dog is eight to ten years, Guiding Eyes ensures that all retired dogs are placed into warm, loving homes, sometimes with the original puppy raiser.

The Costs

Although the cost of preparing a blind person and guide dog for their new life together is nearly $40,000, there is no charge to our students. Expenses include the breeding, puppy raising and dog training programs, veterinary care, the one-month residential class for the blind students and their new companions and lifetime follow-up services to our graduates.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that does not receive any government funding and depends solely on the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations for support.

For information, please call or write to:
Guiding Eyes for the Blind
611 Granite Spring Road
Yorktown Heights, New York 10598
Phone: (914) 245-4024
Fax: (914) 245-1609