By Stephen Kuusisto, University Professor and Director of Interdisciplinary Programs and Outreach at the Burton Blatt Institute
(The Washington Post | June 13, 2022) The No. 1 question I’m asked by inquiring strangers is: “If you’re attacked, will your dog defend you?”
I’m a guide dog user, as the terminology goes. I travel everywhere in the company of a professionally trained guide dog. She can prevent me from being struck by cars and stop me from falling down stairs. She can walk me around detours on sidewalks and take evasive action when a kid on a skateboard veers toward us.
“In general, people think of blindness as a terrible state of vulnerability. Folks imagine that without sight they wouldn’t be able to navigate the streets or do anything in public.”
During her training, she was introduced to sudden, frightening noises — her trainers fired an Olympic starter pistol to simulate the sound of a car backfiring. She can do almost anything to keep us safe as a team.
But no: She cannot protect us from public violence.
I was in mind of this recently when I entered a supermarket for the first time after the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo. As I approached the store, I heard two men arguing in the parking lot. They were wildly angry. Their rage was radiant. I could feel it in the air. This was the first time in my more than 30 years traveling with guide dogs that I felt a dark dread in a public space.
In general, people think of blindness as a terrible state of vulnerability. Folks imagine that without sight they wouldn’t be able to navigate the streets or do anything in public.
None of this is true. But the impression still hovers. In turn, I’m often told that my very movements in public are an example of bravery. This is also not true. Blind travel is deliberate and secure, even in sometimes extraordinary circumstances …