Comparative Study on Guide Dogs and Electronic Travel Aids for the Blind
This analysis explores in depth the reasons why the advent of electronic travel aids (ETAs) for the blind has neither complemented nor replaced the use of guide dogs. With the advent of electronic travel aids for the blind, many experts assumed that the more traditional methods of mobility, such as the use of guide dogs, would be supplemented. Other experts thought that the use of guide dogs would eventually fade out. Both of these assumptions, however, have proven to be inaccurate. For approximately sixty years guide dogs have been serving as a means of independent mobility for many blind people in this country. They continue to serve as a widely used mobility method while ETAs have, by far, the smallest percentage of usage. There are two main sections to this report. The first section concentrates on electronic travel aids. Four of these devices are described, and experts' opinions on ETA usage are discussed. The prevailing notion among experts is that, despite the benefits, ETA usage has remained minimal due to prohibitive costs. Blind people, however, give a very different explanation. They claim that most of the electronic devices are not cosmetically acceptable and that they alienate them from the general public. They stress that there is a stigma attached to appearing "too blind". Furthermore, the usefulness of the devices is often questioned. The second section of the report discusses the many reasons why guide dog usage has remained strong even with the advent of ETAs. The obvious duties of the guide dog are only a few of its total number of functions. This analysis presents a detailed explanation of the many important functions which a guide dog can perform. The theme which runs throughout this report challenges the assumption that technological development and human progress are much the same thing. All too often it is assumed that technological development and advancement are superior to traditional means and methods. This analysis provides a more balanced picture while challenging such notions.