Recently, we issued a light-hearted video in which schoolchildren were able to ask anything they wanted to Siobhan Meade, who lost her sight at the age of 16, and to find out more about sight loss. Siobhan, who also works for Guide Dogs, joined the children in the classroom with her guide dog Marty to answer all the questions the children put to her.
Children from Welholme Academy in Grimsby and Kingston Primary School in Benfleet quizzed guide dog owner Siobhan and asked a series of questions – including if blind and partially sighted people dream in colour and if they ever get lost.
Asked by one of the children if she could dream, Siobhan said: “I do dream and I dream in colour. That means when I’m dreaming, I can see which is really cool.”
The young children couldn't hold back their excitement as they asked Siobhan how she knew where her guide dog Marty had been to the toilet - and just how does she pick up any of his business.
"Marty has a special area where I can take him to go to the toilet and I have a special command I have to give for him to go to the toilet,” Siobhan revealed. "But I don't want to say it too loud because I don't want him to go to the toilet in here. That wouldn't be nice, would it?"
To accompany the video, Guide Dogs commissioned a survey of 1,000 children aged six to 11 and their parents to find out what children have always wanted to ask someone with sight loss. The top questions included, ‘how much can you see?’ (34 per cent), 'how do you choose your clothes?’ (33 per cent), ‘how do you recognise people?’ and ‘do you understand what colours are?’ (30 per cent). While a third (32 per cent) of children wanted to know what a blind or partially sighted person sees when they dream. Yet despite children’s curiosity, 44 per cent of their parents said their children have never asked them about disability – such as being blind or partially sighted - and 57 per cent of children admitted they were worried about talking to blind or partially sighted people about their disability.
Siobhan said: "Those without disabilities are naturally curious about how those with disabilities live their lives – not just kids but adults too. However, adults are perhaps more likely to feel uneasy addressing people from the blind or visually impaired community possibly due to limited interaction with people with those impairments. “This is why meeting the children is so important – it’s a really wonderful opportunity to shape perceptions in a positive and accurate way, and of course, introduce them to guide dog Marty.” Lisa Petrie, Guide Dogs Head of Children and Young People Service Development, added: “Vision impairment is a massively growing issue in the UK. Every day 250 more people join the two million people already living with sight loss and this number is set to double by 2050. “Guide Dogs is here to help people with sight loss live the life they choose. This is part of the motivation for us visiting the school. We want to raise awareness and educate on the breadth and depth or our services that go far beyond our beloved guide dogs. We are working tirelessly to increase awareness of the work we do and the support we offer to the public including young people.”
Be sure to watch the video and laugh along.