Would you know what a red and white cane meant?
Would you know what a guide dog in a dark brown harness meant?
Would you know what a guide dog with a red and white check pattern on their harness meant?
Im going to assume (just for the purpose of this blog) that you don’t !
Lets start the wrong way around.
A guide dog a dark brown harness?
This is a guide dog that is still undergoing training, it has not yet qualified to guide a person with a sight impairment. A guide dog only gets it WHITE harness when it has passed all of the training needed to guide someone who has a visual impairment.
A red and white cane?
This is a long cane for a person with both a sight and hearing impairment. Clearly the cane itself works to inform the person using it of obstacles, steps, and such that a white cane would. The red is there purely to symbolise a hearing impairment. Sadly it is not a clever cane that can assist its user with hearing. But it can notify those around the user that they have a hearing impairment and may not be able to understand you clearly.
This does not mean you need to shout at them. It just means that the person with the cane may need more time and a little patience to understand your conversation.
But would you know this?
How do ‘Joe Public’ know these things?
Aparently the bit about the red and white cane is in the Highway Code. Having never been able to drive, I can’t confirm this; I do however assume that the Highway Code is the sort of book you look trough and possible even read when studying to learn to drive, but soon put down and forget once you have your license?
There is now even more confusion over what colour cane means what after several manufacturers now offer the option of choosing the colour of your can, say pink, green, blue or even multicoloured.
Is it any wonder people (Joe Public) are confused?
So, imagine a guide dog with a red and white check pattern on their harness? Do you know what that means?
As with a red and white striped cane, this is to signify that the owner of the guide dog has an additional hearing impairment. This does not mean (in most cases) that the dog is dual trained.
In the UK there are several guide dog partnerships where the dog is trained to assist a wheelchair user (the role of a canine partner) in addition to its girding duties and for which it has to undergo additional training.
There is also ONE working partnership in the UK where the guide dog has blue and white checks on her harness. This is Hetty, (you may have seen her featured on SuperVet) in addition to being a guide dog, she is trained as a seizure alert dog, spending all her time with her owner, sleeping in the same room and all in addition to her guiding work.
I guess my point of writing this post is to help improve awareness.
Especiially now as my guide dog Fizz has been issued with her own red and white check flash to go on the front of her harness. I will continue in my role as a speaker for guide dogs to inform all those I talk to of the meaning of her harness and hope that in time, public awareness and understanding will mean that this colour combination is a clear,y understood as that of the ‘typical’ guide dog yellow harness.