WARNING! Cute alert! Heathrow has welcomed a number of Guide Dog puppies in training today to Terminal 5. Guide Dogs in training are quite often seen at the airport as it provides great exposure to the busy crowds they must get used to.
On average, 70,000 to 90,000 passengers requiring special assistance travel through Heathrow per month and each day the teams strive to build on the legacy left by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. During this time, Heathrow worked with a range of charities to better understand how to help passengers with reduced mobility – including Guide Dogs.
The improvements included clearer way finding signs, more signage in Braille to improved staff training to help meet each individual need.
Guide Dogs breed and train the dogs who will be matched to their visually impaired owner and will ultimately spend their working lives with them.
Two volunteers known as ‘puppy walkers’ brought the young dogs to Heathrow, along with another which has just started it’s official 16 week guide dogs training to introduce them to environments rich in sights, sounds and smells.
The puppies walked around the departure forecourt of Terminal 5, regularly being stopped by passengers who wanted to give them a pat before carrying on with their travels. Quince, a nine year old Labrador who is a retired guide dog helped show them the ropes.
Dave Kent, who is blind, brought his dog, Arthur, a Labrador who is almost two years old to show how a fully trained guide dog works.
Dave said:”An airport can be a challenging environment for anybody, if you are blind or vision impaired it can be doubly so. Having airport staff trained and ready to offer assistance in the appropriate manner can make the difference between a journey that is average to one that is both slick and highly supportive. It’s a win-win.”
Rob Harris, Guide Dogs London Engagement Manager said: “Tackling the Tube, busy train stations, packed buses and crowded streets is a challenge for anyone in London. Imagine doing it without sight. Guide dogs allow blind and partially sighted people the opportunity to live, work and commute in London with the same freedom as those of us with sight.”
“It’s fantastic that Heathrow Terminal 5 is opening its arms to our puppy walkers who can make the most of having a busy environment to expose the dogs to, safe in the knowledge that both them and the dog will be looked after. This will contribute to ensuring our guide dogs continue to change lives.”
Mark Hicks, Head of Customer Relations at Heathrow said: “We are delighted to be work with the Guide Dogs For The Blind in our continued effort to make Heathrow more accessible for the 90,000 plus passengers with reduced mobility we assist every month.”