Sunday, October 5

Quiet Hybrids a Threat to the Blind

Greetings. I received the following news story from an email list. In the article, it is said that a guide dog cannot detect a hybrid car. The only way I can see that this would happen would be if the car comes up behind the dog-human team. Otherwise, "detecting" the hybrid is just like the behavior during a trafic check, when a car crosses the path of a guide dog and they react by stopping, swerving, or backing up. I can attest to the effectiveness of these traffic checks during training, since my dog and I received quite a number of them, and she reacted correctly each time. In other words, we're still here. The main issue with hybrids in training is the student not knowing what the dog is reacting to. To the student's point of view, since they can't hear the car passing, the dog just stops all of a sudden and the student doesn't know why exactly. Of course, since this would usually happen in the street or a parking lot, it's not too hard to figure out. Anyway, keep this in mind when reading that statement. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Quiet hybrids a threat to the blind
By Isabel MascareƱas,
Tampa Bay's 10 News
September 26, 2008

Palmetto, Florida - Hybrid cars offer better mileage and less pollution but when the vehicle switches from its gasoline engine to an electric motor, it's
virtually silent.

For Helen Arnold, that silence can be deadly for her and her guide dog Corki. She's been blind since birth.

"We cannot hear the hybrid in non-operation mode. We don't know you are there," says Helen. It's not just the handler; guide dogs usually can't
detect hybrids either.

"The biggest challenge with the hybrid is it's so quiet," say Heidi Illgen, lead trainer at Southeastern Guide Dog, Inc.

The Southeastern Guide Dog facility in Manatee purchased a hybrid this year to enhance its training. Illgen takes Troy, an Australian Shepherd, through this life saving lesson. Illgen says dogs have a visual span of about
three feet from side to side and six feet up. The hybrid car requires they expand that visual perception outside of that straight line of travel.

"It's a lot more responsibility for the dog," says Illgen.
The guide dog learns through repetition.
"If the dog gets too close to the vehicle, we tap the vehicle, tell the dog 'no,'
back up and have the car surge back towards us again. If the dog stops at a reasonable distance we consider safe, we pour the praise on," says Illgen.

The trainer says it's not just the dog that must change its ways the student
must also recognize the dog's signals.

"What we need to do now is teach the student to really pay attention to
what the dog is saying we call it intelligent disobedience. Sometimes a dog will refuse to do an action we're calling for could be because of a safety,"
says Illgen.

"Traveling with guide dog is a team. You have the human factor, the canine factor work as a team. I listen, she sees," says Arnold.

Troy will soon be Arnold's new guide dog after Corki retires. She hopes

hybrid owners will use caution and use their eyes and ears when approaching an intersection.

Arnold says, "Be careful, travel a bit slower."

The National Federation of the Blind has asked the auto industry to add a sound to hybrids so the visually impaired and pedestrians can hear one coming.

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