Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Ronald Jones is advocating more use of service dogs by the blind and visually impaired. And he says people in society need to get comfortable seeing them around.
He made the comments as he spoke at the handing over of equipment to aid students who are visually impaired, at the Irving Wilson School in the Pine, St. Michael.
“In this society, we have to become more comfortable with the presence of dogs to assist those who can’t see or are vision impaired. . . . They too have the right to participate in everything that this society and economy provide, and if we are not having that present then there are obviously some difficulties,” Jones stated.
Pointing to philanthropist and Barbados Jubilee Honour recipient Richard Phipps who was at the ceremony, and noting that his quality of life was enhanced as a result of his guide dog, Jones said such animals would be useful in helping more visually impaired persons in Barbados, once there was patience and understanding from the rest of society.
In response, Phipps said the challenges he encountered showed people needed to embraced guide dogs, as these could certainly enhance the lives of others.
Saying that it was important to first eliminate the fear which people have and then get them to appreciate the difference between a regular dog and a service dog, Phipps sought to explain the distinction.
He said service dogs were trained for a specific purpose and time, and their training programme usually cost between $20 000 and $70 000, depending on their purpose.
The philanthropist challenged Jones to be a “voice” and “advocate” for the use of these helpful animals.
The United States-based Phipps was among those receiving a Barbados Jubilee Honour this week at Government House. The award was conferred on him in recognition of his outstanding work in advocating and promoting Barbadian arts, culture, education, and family values in the US.
An active member of his Boston, Massachusetts community, he hosts Barbadian artists and a variety of programmes.