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Assistance Dog Week highlights workplace challenges for people with disabilities


Initiative aims to increase employment and familiarize employers with the role of assistance animals.

Clients whose pets are also partners are celebrating International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) Aug. 4-10. The theme for this year’s International Assistance Dog Week is “Seeing, hearing, sensing, supporting—there’s a dog for that!” Types of assistance dogs include:

> Guide dogs assist people with vision loss, leading them around physical obstacles and helping with tasks such as crossing streets and navigating doorways, elevators and stairways.

> Service dogs assist people with walking, dressing, retrieving and carrying items, opening doors and more.

> Hearing alert dogs alert people with a hearing loss to the presence of specific sounds such as doorbells, telephones, crying babies and fire alarms.

> Seizure alert, medical alert and seizure response dogs alert their partners to medical problems associated with conditions such as diabetes, autism, heart attack, stroke, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress.

With the spotlight on these essential dogs this week, IADW founder Marcie Davis and West Virginia University associate professor and researcher Margaret Glenn have announced an initiative to expand career horizons for people with disabilities who partner with assistance animals. The challenge? For many employers, having an assistance animal in the workplace is unfamiliar ground.

“The number of assistance dogs in the workplace is increasing rapidly due to returning military veterans and the proliferation of types of assistance dogs now available,” Davis says in a release from IADW. “Many employers have no experience with assistance dog teams and don’t know how to respond to this employment issue.”

The initiative, which aims to incorporate the role of assistance dogs into mainstream employment policies, will involve a yearlong awareness and information-gathering effort, including interviews with employers and assistance dog teams. “We want to bring together experienced assistance dog partners, researchers, trainers, vocational rehabilitation professionals and others for a yearlong focused conversation,” Glenn says.

IADW hopes the results of the initiative will increase employment success for those with disabilities and make employers more familiar with and accepting of assistance dog teams. Summaries of what is learned during this yearlong initiative will be published and announced during International Assistance Dog Week in 2014. Go to www.assistancedogweek.org for more information that may benefit your assistance team clients.

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