Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and The Seeing Eye (TSE) of Morristown, N.J., two of North America’s leading guide dog schools, have joined forces to create a training video to help airline and airport employees better assist travelers who are visually impaired, with a special focus on how to address the social distancing guidelines during the Pandemic.

COVID-19 has been especially isolating for people who are blind or visually impaired, largely because the rules and aids for socially distancing have been communicated through directional arrows, signage, or taped-off measurements that guide dogs don’t understand or white canes can’t feel. This has made air travel exponentially harder for those who are blind or visually impaired, so GDB and TSE stepped in to help improve the travel experience for travelers who are blind by creating an instructional video for airlines and airports to train their employees.

The video includes best practices and tips for helping travelers who are blind or visually impaired, including:

  • How to provide superior service while interacting with them and their guide dogs
  • How to assist them in navigating the airport, while social distancing
  • How to help guide dog teams navigate TSA screening
  • How to provide guidance for boarding and exiting a plane
  • How to provide physical assistance that doesn’t violate social distancing guidelines

“Since the air travel industry already had so much to contend with during the pandemic, we wanted to share our expertise in a way that would help provide a safe and positive travel experience during and after the pandemic — not only for travelers who are blind but also for the airline and airport employees who serve them,” said Christine Benninger, president and CEO for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “This video is another example of how we have pivoted as an organization during the pandemic to better serve the blindness community.”

“This collaboration across industries is an important step in ensuring continued accessibility for travelers who are blind and visually impaired,” said Glenn Hoagland, president and CEO of The Seeing Eye. “As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we expect this educational video will be a lasting way to help facilitate the comfort and safety of both travelers and the professionals who work with them.”

In creating the video, GDB and TSE enlisted input and participation from guide dog users, as well as from employees at Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, the Port of Oakland, the Port of Newark, and the TSA teams at Oakland International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Alaska and United plan to begin sharing the video with their employees this summer.

“We are committed to providing the best service to our guests and appreciate the opportunity to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye on this important video,” said Wayne Newton, vice president of airport operations and customer service, Alaska Airlines. “This video will be used to train our employees and ensure we are continuing the support of our guests who are blind and visually impaired in the best ways possible.”

“United strives to create an inclusive and accessible environment for our customers, employees and all those we proudly serve,” said Jessica Kimbrough, the airline’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. “The pandemic has reshaped travel in many ways and working alongside organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye helps ensure our customers will continue to have a safe and enjoyable experience.”

About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is the largest guide dog school in North America. It is a passionate community that prepares highly qualified guide dogs to empower individuals who are blind or visually impaired to move through the world more safely and confidently. More than 15,000 guide teams have graduated from GDB since it was founded in 1942. GDB not only improves mobility for its clients, but it also furthers inclusion and advocates for policy reforms that change how the world views blindness. All of GDB’s services are provided free of charge, and it receives no government funding. The organization was the subject of an award-winning 2018 documentary feature called Pick of the Litter, which was developed into a television docu-series by the same name that debuted in 2019 on Disney+. For more information, visit guidedogs.com, or call 800.295.4050.

About The Seeing Eye

Established in 1929, The Seeing Eye provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind. Seeing Eye dog users experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles despite blindness. The Seeing Eye is a 501(c)3 non-profit supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests, and other planned gifts. The Seeing Eye is a trademarked name and can only be used to describe the dogs bred and trained at the school’s facilities in Morristown, N.J. If you would like more information on The Seeing Eye, please visit the website at www.SeeingEye.org, call 973.539.4425.

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