Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Guide Dog Home Training

 Tami and I have been undergoing home training for the past 3 weeks, in my local area, since returning home from our residential training at The Mercure Hotel, in Bolton.

I already have a foundation route which I built upon for 8 months during my mobility training with a long cane, from August 2013 to April 2014, with a mobility instructor based within the Salford Sensory Team. This route enables me to go from my house to the top of the road where the butchers, hairdressers, and convenience stores are located - with the library, post office, Co-op and Tesco Express further down the main road.

With this in mind, I began by learning newer routes such as to my Grandad's house - which is a good 20 minute walk away - with my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. It was a route new to me and to Tami so we could work on it together and break it down into chunks. The main bulk of the route was already there from my previous mobility training, so I could guide Tami to start with. Now that I have repeated the route many times, Tami even knows which gate belongs to my Grandad and pokes her nose through to push it open!

My GDMI and I worked on a few more routes including to my Auntie's, the swimming baths, the Pharmacy, the Doctors, and then tackled public transport. There are only two buses that come in and out of Irlam - the 67 and the 100 - with the 67 going to the Manchester town centre and the 100 going to the Trafford Centre. The 67 is the bus I will use often as it stops at the Eccles Interchange where the trams are. This opens up a lot of options to me in terms of routes that I will use regularly; going to Salford Quays, MediaCity UK, Old Trafford, Piccadilly station and various points in Manchester city centre such as St. Peter's Square, Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens.

I then looked at making my own way to Henshaws in Old Trafford; by taking the bus to the Eccles Interchange, boarding any tram (as they all go to Cornbrook) allowing me to then change for the Altrincham tram and waiting for the Old Trafford stop. I can then make my way over to the tactiles, cross the tracks, walk towards Talbot Road and cross the sets of lights. There is a pen in the back of the car park in Henshaws, so I can spend Tami before undertaking my work placement or social groups.

On December 17th I had a Christmas lunch to attend with the ladies of the marketing team at Henshaws, so I wanted to learn the route to Manchester Piccadilly station next so that I could make my way with Tami independently without having to rely on having a lift - as I previously would have done. My GDMI and I worked a full day orientating myself around the station as to where the tram pulls in, where to go to the steps to access the main level of the station, locating where the information help desk is, where the platforms are and where the seating area is. I'm pleased to say that Tami and I did fantastically well and used the bus, tram and train to make our way to Leeds and back for a lovely meal. The staff even offered a bowl of water for Tami, which was a really kind gesture after her busy work!

My training halted in time for Christmas Eve and I used this opportunity to go to the small Tesco Express on my own and get some last-minute bits and bobs for Christmas. I have never been shopping on my own before so it was slightly scary to start with, but Tami was brilliant in finding the main checkout so that I can ask for assistance - and in the 3 times I have been, they have been so helpful in locating my items for me.

I continued training today, on New Year's Eve, to learn the route to my brother's flat located on the Salford Quays waterfront. It's a good 10 minute walk from the tram stop but I now know to cross and walk up the main road with the traffic on my left-hand side and then turn right to the Abito building where he lives with his girlfriend. There are a lot of restaurants nearby, including Chiquito and Matchstick Men, so I can go and visit him with Tami when he's off from work and go out for lunch!

I am so incredibly impressed with what Tami and I have achieved so far and I cannot wait to start the New Year and continue travelling with Tami by my side!

Audio Diaries

As with my residential training, I created audio diaries (and will continue to do so until my training is complete!) on my audioBoom channel documenting the progress in my home training. You can listen to my recordings below: