GoPro strapped to guide dog shows challenges of blind UK man’s daily commute
Amit Patel is trying to raise awareness of the obstacles seeing-impaired people face in a task as mundane as a daily commute.
The former emergency room doctor lost his sight five years ago to a corneal condition called keratoconus. He said losing his sight was a frightening experience.
“Losing my sight was very lonely,” Patel told Metro UK. “If I’m travelling by public transport, I’m sometimes like a scared little boy [who sits] in the corner.”
So when he was paired with Kika in September 2015, he said his life changed for the better. With a renewed sense of independence, Patel and his wife, Seema, decided to expand their family and have a child.
Despite the growing sense of confidence with Kika by his side, Patel said he’d have puzzling experiences where Kika would suddenly stop or become distracted while working as his guide. He eventually learned that it was because Kika faces a barrage of abuse.
“I was never sure why Kika on our journeys would either stop, slow down or just take a different path,” Patel told AJ+.
“It’s only when other commuters would tell me ‘Someone just kicked your dog,’ that I would realize what was actually happening.”
One of the biggest challenges for the pair is on escalators.
Kika is one of the small percentage of guide dogs in the U.K. that is trained to take their owners on escalators. She stands to the left of Patel as he rides, which can block the pathway for commuters in a hurry.
“The worst part is the tutting and negative comments behind me,” he said. “One lady even said I should apologize to the people behind her for holding them up. I asked her if I should apologize for being blind and she said ‘Yes.’”
Sometimes people will try to get around Kika by pushing past the pair or walking over her and hitting her.
“It really scares Kika sometimes. I can feel how upset she gets, and when I get upset she senses it as well — and she won’t go on the escalators for a few days,” he said.
The Patels hope that Kika’s POV videos will help more of the public understand that it’s important to allow guide dogs to do their job.
“Every time I leave the house, it still fills me with dread. London itself can be a scary place, even if you can see. But I have confidence in her,” he told CBS. “She works really hard, and she gives me my independence. You take that from her, you take that from me. You wouldn’t take someone’s wheelchair from them.”Follow @jennynotjen
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